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Bengals Defensive Tackle Devon Still Enters Training Camp With Heavy Heart

Devon Still re-joined his teammates at Training Camp, but he does so with his ailing daughter back at home.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

In all of the hoopla with a new NFL season on the horizon and the legions of rabid fans foaming at the mouth, it's easy to lose perspective on some things. We are all guilty of this obsession with professional football, but sometimes it's easy to forget that these guys are human and deal with very human issues off of the field.

Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still is facing an issue that any father shouldn't have in their lives. His young four-year old daughter, Leah, is battling cancer. Still kept this understandably quiet as he missed OTAs while spending time with her. As Training Camp set to kick off, Still was placed on the Active/PUP List with a back tweak and only was announced as active on Saturday.

As he returned, Still caught up with Geoff Hobson of and talked about the heavy heart he's carrying while trying to get back to work.

"It crossed my mind a lot of times whether I was going to come out here or not. Just because my family is No. 1. It takes priority over football, especially with my daughter. I contemplated it a lot," Still said Sunday morning before practice. "I felt like me, especially, I needed football to kind of balance things out because it messed my head up when everything happened.

"Just to be with the guys and get my head off of what’s going on for that hour or two and just step away and to get myself together so I can be a strong  support system for her when I go back. I needed that."

It is a huge relief that Leah is transferring from hospitals in Delaware and Philadelphia to Cincinnati’s Children Hospital on July 31.

"I didn’t come back for OTAs or minicamp because I wasn’t comfortable leaving my daughter. Even coming out here for training camp. It was a hard decision," Still said. "But as long as she’s going to be here the 31st, that made it a lot easier."

Still, bald in solidarity with Leah as she prepares for her third round of chemotherapy the day after she gets to Children’s, hesitated before posting his daughter’s disease. But he did the day it was diagnosed because, "It is a hard battle just to do alone."

"My head is messed up, to be honest with you. It’s messed up. Sometimes I feel bi-polar," Still said. "Sometimes I wake up and I’m optimistic. Sometimes I wake up and it’s just heavy on me. It’s definitely a roller-coaster. Being here playing football, being here with the guys, having a reason to laugh sometimes takes a lot of that sorrow off of me, or the depression, whatever you want to call it. Playing football helps out a lot."

Still was perceived to be a steal in the second round of the 2012 draft, but has experienced growing pains in his first two seasons as a pro. The pains he experiences in year three will be of a different kind, but it sounds as if he is doing his best on doing his job while keeping his thoughts with his daughter.

If you would like to help Still and the Bengals fight pediatric cancer, you can go here.