Cannon to IR thrusts Waddle, Fleming into key roles for Patriots

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FOXBORO -- The Patriots haven't had Marcus Cannon since Week 8. Now they'll have to go without him much longer. 

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The team announced on Wednesday that Cannon was headed to injured reserve with an ankle injury that he aggravated in a win over the Chargers on Oct. 29. The prospect of Cannon's return - a second-team All-Pro selection last season -- was an enticing one for the Patriots offense as his presence would have had a domino effect on the rest of the unit. Now the team will have to turn others at right tackle. 

For the last two weeks, the choice has been Cameron Fleming. In 129 snaps as a starter against the Bills and Dolphins, he's allowed just three hurries. Not bad for a player who has been third on the depth chart for the majority of the season at that position. 

The reason Fleming was called upon was because of an ankle injury suffered by LaAdrian Waddle in Week 12 against the Dolphins when Waddle was filling in for Cannon. As the starter from Weeks 10-12, Waddle allowed a combined nine quarterback pressures and no sacks. 

The Patriots have gone out of their way to keep capable depth on their roster at that position, and it's paid off. Should they need more, they could turn to undrafted rookie Cole Croston, who has spent the season working at both tackle and guard. Croston is an Iowa product, where he learned line play from head coach Kirk Ferentz (a former line coach under Bill Belichick with the Browns) and Brian Ferentz (a former Patriots assistant).

The Patriots needed to make a move to their 53-man roster Wednesday as Rob Gronkowski was activated from his suspension. 

Belichick's club made a handful of additional moves on Wednesday, making the Kenny Britt signing official and re-signing defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois. In order to make room for that duo, the Patriots released punt-returner Bernard Reedy and linebacker Jonathan Freeny. 

Freeny's release could be an indication that the Patriots feel as though Kyle Van Noy's return is relatively close. Jean Francois being back in the fold, meanwhile, could be a sign that there are concerns about fellow lineman Alan Branch's availability. Branch injured his knee in Miami on Monday and did not return to the game. 

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