Shea McClellin takes next step toward rejoining Patriots' defense

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Veteran linebacker Shea McClellin, who opened the year on injured reserve with an undisclosed ailment, took an important step toward rejoining the New England Patriots defense on Wednesday with his return to practice.

It marked the first time McClellin has been eligible to return to practice after being placed on injured reserve Sept. 4. The first time he'll be eligible to play in a game is Nov. 12 against Denver.

Teams have the option to bring up to two players back from injured reserve, and McClellin is largely considered the most likely choice among the Patriots' options, including defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (knee) and receiver Malcolm Mitchell (knee). McClellin has been taking part in meetings in recent weeks along with Valentine. It is unknown whether Mitchell has been taking part in meetings.

A lot can change on a team's roster in a few weeks, but one question the Patriots will ultimately have to answer if McClellin is added to the 53-man roster is whose spot he takes. Undrafted defensive end/linebacker Harvey Langi remains in the hospital after a car accident Friday night, and while his condition is improving, it potentially could affect his return to action this season. Also, veteran linebacker David Harris has been a healthy scratch twice this season and has played just seven defensive snaps over four other games.

McClellin's return to practice was one of the notable storylines of the day, as his return could provide help in multiple areas -- at off-the-line linebacker and also potentially as a pass-rushing end, where the team seems to be a bit thin.

Meanwhile, cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore (concussion) and Eric Rowe (groin) were not spotted at practice. They are two of the team's top three corners on the depth chart, and if they are unavailable on Sunday night against the Falcons, it could thrust core special-teams player Johnson Bademosi into a starting role for the second straight week.