Cannon begins practicing for Pats

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots rookie offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, who slipped to the fifth round of the draft after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, practiced with the team for the first time Tuesday as he continues to make progress in his return to the football field.

Linebacker Dane Fletcher was the only player absent for the Patriots. After missing the final session before players enjoyed a five-day break during the team's bye week, quarterback Tom Brady, offensive lineman Matt Light, and cornerback Ras-I Dowling returned to the practice field Tuesday.

The Patriots practiced in shells for their first session of the week. The team does not have to file an official injury report until Wednesday. Fletcher has been on the injury report in recent weeks with a thumb injury, but it hadn't limited his participation since Week 2.

During his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio WEEI on Monday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick hinted at Cannon's impending return and offered some thoughts on a player that was pegged to go higher in the draft.

"He's a good athlete," said Belichick. "He's definitely been able to do some things here in between some of his treatments and things that he's done. His strength level, his conditioning, his overall movement skills and all that have been impressive for his size. We'll see how all that translates to the football field and experience and plays and so forth, if and when that happens. It's definitely encouraging.

"Most importantly, I hope it happens for him. He's worked hard. I know it's important to him. I hope things clear up so he gets that opportunity. We'll just take it day by day and see how it goes."

Like the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list, the Patriots will now have three weeks to activate Cannon, or move him to season-ending injured reserve.