For the first time this offseason, Devon Still is back practicing with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Still has spent most of the offseason caring for his daughter, Leah, as she continues her battle with pediatric cancer. A recent setback in her treatment put her in the hospital for more than 40 days, but it looks as though she'll be discharged soon.
While many have written Still off as a possible contributor to this year's team, he is ready to repay the Bengals for everything they've done for him. He's been a different man this offseason in how he's worked out and taken care of his body, and it has him feeling ready to make an impact for Cincinnati.
"I'm in the best shape I've ever been in my football career, period -- college or pro," Still said, via ESPN. "I'm playing motivated now. My daughter has won the battle against cancer, and I know she wants me to go out and prove myself on the football field. So that's what I'm working towards."
Last year, Still simply could not put the kind of focus and work into football that's required to be successful in the NFL with everything that was going on with Leah. Maintaining a healthy and effective weight proved very difficult to do as Still hovered around a the 317-pound rage.
"I know for a fact it was," said Still of the negative impact of his weight, via Bengals.com. "Just off of last year, I wasn't working out properly. I was missing my workouts to fly back and be with my daughter. I wasn't eating right, whether it was from depression or whatever. But I was able to start eating right and getting my weight back down…If anything, it's improved (my strength). So I'm looking forward to what I can do on that football field and making sure I'm not just weight room strong, that it translates to the field."
Coming out of Penn State in the 2012 NFL draft. Still was a healthy 303 pounds. He wasn't the kind of defensive tackle who sits in his gap and occupies multiple offensive lineman. He was an explosive athlete that could storm into the backfield and blow up a play before it began. That's what Still is hoping to get back to as he's now down to 296 pounds.
"Quicker. Move better. I didn't need all that weight to play inside," Still said,. "As long as I still have the same strength to control those blocks and stuff, I don't need to be 317."
Devon is still facing an uphill climb just to make the 53-man roster. Geno Atkins and Domata Peko are roster locks. Fourth-rounder Marcus Hardison would have to have a horrendous camp to not make the roster. Pat Sims has done far more in his career than Still, as has Brandon Thompson.
It's great to see Still is in the best shape of his life, as he's going to need the best camp of his life just to make the final roster.