Pats' Marcus Cannon at practice

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England 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.

On Wednesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed Cannon's return to the practice field.

"It was his first practice, he has a long way to go, but it's good to have him back out there," said Belichick. "We'll just take it day by day."

During his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio WEEI on Monday, 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 on WEEI. "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."

Cannon remains on the reserve/non-football injury list and isn't eligible to play in games until he is added to the 53-man roster. The Patriots now have three weeks from Tuesday (his first practice) to activate him or place him on season-ending injured reserve.

In other Patriots injury news, linebacker Dane Fletcher was the only player absent from Tuesday's practice. After missing the final session before enjoying a five-day break during their bye week, quarterback Tom Brady, offensive lineman Matt Light, and cornerback Ras-I Dowling returned to the practice field.

Mike Rodak is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.