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Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Cannon makes NFL debut vs. Chiefs

By Chris Forsberg

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After activating rookie offensive lineman Marcus Cannon from the non-football injury list earlier this week, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was quick to caution that no one knew for sure when the rookie would actually be thrust into game action.

Turns out it was far quicker than most expected.

The 6-foot-6, 348-pound Cannon, the team's fifth-round draft choice out of TCU who is in full remission from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, debuted at right tackle in the fourth quarter of Monday's 34-3 thrashing of the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium.

Cannon aided the Patriots on a run-heavy, 14-play, 62-yard scoring drive that culminated with fellow rookie Shane Vereen's first NFL touchdown to cap the scoring.

"The coaching staff gave me a chance to play and it was awesome," said Cannon, who spent the previous three weeks practicing with the goal of joining the 53-man roster. He opened the season on the reserve list.

The coaching staff evidently had enough confidence in his abilities that the team released offensive lineman Donald Thomas before Monday's game, allowing New England to add Ross Ventrone for depth at safety.

With the game in hand, Cannon got the opportunity to make his NFL debut. He knows his fight to beat cancer will always precede him, but he'd be happy if it inspires others.

"You know, whatever helps people," Cannon said. "Of course, my story will always be there and I thank God every day. I am blessed and there is no way of putting it behind you. I am just looking forward to playing football."

Veteran guard Brian Waters, who lined up next to Cannon on his first series, was happy to see him on the field.

"It was good for him. I think any time you get a young player with a lot of talent and you're able to get him back on the field, it is good for him," Waters said. "He's going to be just like everybody else in the fact that we all will see some things that we need to go back and work on. Hopefully he keeps going and hopefully we'll be able to see what everybody thinks, potential-wise, that he has. He has a lot of work to do, like everybody else, but he's a good football player."

Echoed Patriots coach Bill Belichick: "It's good to have Marcus on the field, period. He's been out there for about a month now. He's worked hard and I'm glad he's getting an opportunity to play. He's got a long way to go, but he took a step tonight."