The New England Patriots took a big step toward solidifying their offensive line when veteran Ryan Wendell returned to practice Monday afternoon.

Wendell had not practiced since Sept. 17 with an undisclosed illness. The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Wendell had been expected to start at one of the guard positions this year, but has yet to appear in a game.

He had been the Patriots starting center in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but was moved to right guard last year with the arrival of rookie Brian Stork.

With Stork on the short-term injured reserve list (and not eligible to return until the ninth game of the season at the earliest) because of a concussion and neck injury, Wendell had been expected to move back to center.

With Wendell out, rookie David Andrews has started at center and played well. Rookies Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson (both fourth-round picks) and third-year veteran Josh Kline have rotated in at the guard positions.

It is not known how quickly Wendell will work his way back into the lineup. In practice on Monday, Wendell began by snapping the ball to Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots back-up quarterback.

The Patriots, off to a 3-0 start, had perfect practice attendance on Monday, a rarity this season so far.

They play at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

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