CINCINNATI (AP) Large, gray shipping envelopes were stacked in Devon Still’s locker on Monday, gifts from fans who are following his daughter’s fight with cancer.
The Bengals defensive lineman spent most of his bye week with his 4-year-old daughter Leah, who had surgery to remove a tumor from her abdomen. She has more chemotherapy ahead to attack the cancer in her bone marrow.
Leah’s story has gotten international attention and prompted thousands of people to buy Still’s jersey as part of a program to raise money for pediatric cancer care and research. Gifts arrive as well, like those stacked in his locker from the bye week.
”I’m pretty sure it has something to do with my daughter,” Still said. ”People have been sending her a lot of different toys, blankets, dolls and everything.”
Nearly 10,000 people have spent $100 apiece to buy his No. 75 jersey as part of a team-sponsored campaign to raise money for Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati. The Bengals have a link on their website for those who want to donate without buying a jersey.
The team has gotten orders from all 50 states as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. The program has raised more than $1 million and will continue through Oct. 20.
Fans have been getting their jerseys and sending photos to Still as a way of supporting him and his daughter.
”I’ve been getting a whole bunch of pictures,” Still said. ”Ever since the jerseys started going out, people have been tagging me in their pictures and stuff. It’s good that people are willing to support, people are willing to put up $100 to help other families.”
Leah was diagnosed with cancer four months ago. The surgery last Thursday was a significant step in her recovery. Still said doctors were able to remove all of the cancerous tumor from her abdomen.
To calm her fears before surgery, Still showed her his scars from operations on his knee, ankle and back. A video of his pep talk went viral.
”It all came about because the whole night before she was talking about how nervous she was and I was trying to explain to her about what surgery was,” Still said. ”I showed her the different scars that I have on my body from my surgeries to make her more comfortable with the one she’s going to have on her stomach.
”On the way to the hospital she was looking sad. And you see in the beginning of the video I said, `I’m going to say it again.’ The first time I asked her, she was really down. She didn’t really say anything. That’s when I asked her again and that’s when she started getting happy. So it was just to try to put a smile on her face and not to make her so nervous.”
Still expects his daughter to leave the hospital early this week.
”She had a successful surgery and she’s been getting better and better day by day that she’s been in the hospital,” Still said. ”She’s been able to walk for the first time (since surgery) and did pretty good with that. She’s been able to sit up on her own. She’s a fighter.”
Notes: Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict didn’t practice with the team on Monday. Burfict sat out a 33-7 win over Tennessee before the bye because he’d gotten his second concussion of the season. Asked if Burfict will be cleared to resume practice this week for a game in New England on Sunday night, coach Marvin Lewis said, ”I would imagine.” … RG Kevin Zeitler also missed practice. He hurt his right calf in the second game of the season and also was inactive against the Titans.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
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