New England Patriots rookie offensive tackle Marcus Cannon was added to the active roster from the reserve/non-football injury list on Tuesday, which was the deadline for players who started the season on the PUP list to be activated.
The 6-foot-6, 348-pound Cannon, the team's fifth-round draft choice out of TCU, said last month that he's in full remission from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer. He returned to practice last month and his three-week window expired Tuesday, forcing the Patriots to decide whether to add him to the 53-man roster or shift him to season-ending injured reserve. To make room for Cannon, the Patriots released safety Ross Ventrone.
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio offered high praise for the doctors and trainers who worked with Cannon the past three months to put him in position to join the active roster.
"Like we talked about back at the draft, football was the least important thing for him, in terms of getting healthy, at that point," Caserio said. "Look, we'll add him to the mix, put him on the roster. He'll be no different than any other player. We'll ask him to do the same things -- work on fundamentals, prepare to play. When is he going to play? Nobody knows at this point, but the expectation is for him to work hard, prepare to play."
When healthy, the Patriots are fairly stocked at tackle with Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer in starting roles, while rookie first-round pick Nate Solder has shown an ability to play on both sides of the line (as well as serve as a third tight end). The team would seem to need more depth inside, but last week Belichick hinted Cannon might have enough versatility to play any spot on the line.
"He's played a lot more at tackle than he has any place else on the line. He played there in college and he's played both sides. He hasn't played a lot inside," said Belichick. "I personally don't see any reason why he couldn't play inside -- I think he's athletic enough, he's certainly big enough, he has enough power and enough quickness, so ultimately what is his best position? Left tackle, right tackle, left guard, right guard? I'm not sure.
"In the third week of practice, he's taken a lot of snaps, most of them have been with the scout team, but he's worked in a couple of different positions. I don't see any limitations, but that being said he hasn't done it. He hasn't done a lot of it, especially at guard. He's a lot more comfortable at tackle; he has a lot more experience at tackle. That's not saying he couldn't play another position, but it would only be based on limited snaps at this point."
Last month after he returned to practice, the 23-year-old Cannon said he never considered life without football.
"I just took it one day at a time. God has a plan for everybody," he said. "If I was going to play football, I was going to play football. If I wasn't going to play football, I wasn't going to play football. I have a college degree, so something was going to happen."
Cannon's treatments were in Fort Worth, Texas, and it turns out that was one of the most challenging parts to his recovery.
"I was really blessed not to have so many side effects of the chemo. Probably the toughest thing was having to leave the team and get on a plane every three weeks," he said, adding that he could still work out during that time. "Everybody in here has been real supportive; the offensive line has been helping me get into it [on the field]. I love this team."
Caserio said it's a credit to not only the medical staff, but Cannon himself for working so hard to get on the field.
"There's a lot of people happy for him," Caserio said, "and we look forward to continuing to work with him."
Chris Forsberg covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.