Seymour practices; Pats have three weeks to decide

One of the NFL's best teams could soon be getting even better.

Five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Richard Seymour, who has been on the physically unable to perform list following offseason knee surgery, practiced with the New England Patriots for the first time this season on Wednesday afternoon, signaling that his return to the lineup is likely getting closer.

By league rule, the Patriots now have a three-week window in which to evaluate Seymour's progress and conditioning. By the end of the three weeks, the team must either move Seymour to the active, 53-player roster or keep him on the PUP list for the rest of the season.

New England can activate Seymour, if that is the team's decision, at any time during the three-week period.

Seymour, 28, suffered complications from the offseason surgery and was not ready to return to the field at the outset of training camp, so he was deemed physically unable to perform. The league rules stipulate that a PUP player cannot practice in team activities for the first six weeks of the season, although he is permitted to work in individual drills.

There were some reports early this season that Seymour had suffered a staph infection after the knee surgery, but team officials steadfastly denied those reports. There were also suggestions that Seymour might miss the entire season. But based on on conversations with New England officials and sources close to Seymour over the past few weeks, indications are that he could return by early November.

Regarded as one of the NFL's premier defensive linemen, Seymour possesses tremendous versatility, and a rare combination of size, power and quickness. At 6-feet-6 and 310 pounds, he is a prototype end for a 3-4 front, able to anchor against the run and still provide a pass rush. In the New England scheme, Seymour characteristically moves inside to tackle when the Patriots align in a four-man front on passing downs.

The former Georgia star was the Pats' first-round selection in the 2001 draft, the sixth player chosen overall that year. He has appeared in 87 regular-season games, with 82 starts, and has 367 tackles, 29½ sacks, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, two interceptions and 27 pass deflections.

The only season in which Seymour was not named to the Pro Bowl team was his rookie campaign. He has been part of three Super Bowl championship teams.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.