BOSTON (CBS) — Julian Edelman has taken one major step toward potentially returning to the football field for the Patriots.

The veteran receiver returned to the practice field for the Patriots on Wednesday. In doing so, he and the team began his 21-day window to be activated to the roster, as he works himself back into health after undergoing a knee procedure in late October.

Bill Belichick was asked on Wednesday morning if the team might start the 21-day window to activate Edelman and have the veteran receiver practice. Belichick’s answer didn’t really give an indication that Edelman would be returning quickly.

“Julian, I would put him in the day-to-day category. But when he’s ready, we’ll start him,” Belichick said. “And if he’s not ready, we’ll keep working until he’s ready.”

Edelman, 34, has been on injured reserve since late October. Edelman played in just six games this year, catching 21 passes for 315 yards and no touchdowns while dealing with a knee injury for every week of the season after Week 1. He set a career-high for single-game receiving yards when he caught eight passes for 179 yards in a Week 2 loss in Seattle.

The IR rules for 2020 allow teams to bring as many players back from IR as desired. Once the injured player returns to practice, teams have 21 days to either activate the player or place him on season-ending IR.

The regular season ends for the Patriots in just 19 days, so Edelman’s window for a potential return is already tight. They play in Miami this week, before hosting the Bills on Monday Night Football in Week 16 and the Jets in Week 17. With just a 2 percent chance of the Patriots reaching the playoffs, it seems those will be the final opportunities for Edelman to play in 2020.

CBSBoston.com Staff