- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots rookie offensive lineman Marcus Cannon expressed excitement about his return to the practice field while adding that he's in full remission after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"It was awesome, finally getting to play with the team," said Cannon, whose debut came Tuesday.
Cannon, the team's fifth-round draft choice out of Texas Christian, had opened the year on the reserve/non-football injury list. The team has until Nov. 15, which is three weeks from Cannon's first practice, to decide whether to place him on the 53-man roster or season-ending injured reserve.
The 23-year-old Cannon, who grew up in Odessa, Texas, never considered a 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 of 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."
Cannon was told he was in full remission within the last two weeks, and he most recently measured 6-foot-6 and 348 pounds. He weighed as much as 370 at Texas Christian, where he suited up for 49 games with 36 starts from 2007-10.
Some analysts viewed him as a high draft pick, possibly as early as the second round, before he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The Patriots selected him 138th overall.
"We looked at the whole total package, the whole situation -- the person, the player, the medical situation -- and based on all the things that came together around that, we made our decision to select him in the fifth round," said coach Bill Belichick, who has been impressed with what he's seen from Cannon.
"It's obviously a difficult situation for anybody to be in, let alone a football player. I think Marcus has handled it with great maturity. He's a very focused individual that met the challenge head-on and never looked for any sympathy or 'woe is me' type of syndrome. He did what he had to do. He attacked it head-on. I think he's certainly earned a lot of respect and admiration from everybody in the organization, certainly myself."
Cannon said it's still a process to re-gain his strength, and he's been working closely with strength coaches Harold Nash and Moses Cabrera. On the field, his primary experience has come at tackle, but he could also work at guard.
"There is not a defined position right now," he said. "I'm just doing what I'm told to do, helping wherever I can."
This week has been about knocking off the rust.
"I haven't played football in six to eight months [but] if I just keep working and listening to coach, I'll be all right," he said.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.
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