The Cincinnati Bengals stepped up when a player distracted by his four-year-old daughter’s cancer battle was cut from the team.
The NFL has faced harsh criticism lately for the way it handled players who hit their wives and children. Buthere’s one NFL team that stepped up when a player and his family needed it most.
When Devon Sill learned last June that his four-year-old daughter Leah had cancer, being the defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals suddenly didn’t seem as important as it once was. The 25-year-old, who is a Penn-State star turned pro, wanted to be by his daughter’s bedside more than he wanted to insure that the Bengals would resign him. He told ESPN:
"Originally, when I found out, I was going to take the year off and just be there with my daughter, because doctors gave her a 50-50 chance of surviving. So, I wanted to be able to spend as much time with her as possible."
Devon missed off-season workouts. He shaved his head when Leah began chemo and he filled his Instagram with pictures of Leah and news about her medical condition. One post in August read:
"Normally today would be filled with excitement because it’s my first game back since my injury in December but because it is also the day my daughter starts her 3rd round of chemo and I can’t be there it feels different…usually on game day I pray for safety and a good game but today I’m just sending up one prayer so God knows how important it is to me and that is he stay by my daughters side and comfort her and protect her since I can’t be there….I’m going to handle my business on the field today and she’s going to handle hers in that hospital #PrayForLeah"
It was obvious to the Bengals his attention was elsewhere, so they cut Devon from the team. Business is business right?
Devon admitted in an interview withGood Morning America that he understood why the Bengals passed on resigning him. While Leah was sick, he couldn’t make football his priority. But being cut meant Devon would no longer have insurance to cover Leah’s treatment, which has been estimated might cost a million dollars.
Then, last week, the Bengals showed it isn’t all about the bottom line. They do have a heart. The Bengals signed Still to their practice squad, saving his health insurance. As a practice squad member he won’t have to travel, so he can spend more time with Leah while still playing football. It also means a $6,300 a month paycheck, and a chance to rejoin the team when Leah is well.
Devon was emotional as he expressed his gratitude to the Bengals management:
"They could have washed their hands with me and said that they don’t care about what I was going through off the field. It’s kinda like a blessing in disguise for me. Because they know of my situation, the work environment is easier for me, because I’m around players that I know, that I care about, who care about me, and I’m around a coaching staff who cares about me.""
Meanwhile, Leah is undergoing her fourth round of chemo.
All photos via Instagram