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Patriots rookie OT Antonio Garcia apparently ineligible to return in 2017

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It appears as if the third round draft pick's season has ended before it really even began.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl-South Practice Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

As part of their roster cutdowns on Saturday, the New England Patriots have placed three players on non-football reserve lists. Among them was third round draft pick Antonio Garcia, who was designated with a non-football illness. Early on, the thought was that the rookie was eligible to return later during the season.

However, according to patscap.com's Miguel Benzan, this might not be the case. Benzan refers to a section in the NFL Communication's “Important Dates” release that explains the NFI procedure in great detail (highlights added):

Beginning on the sixth calendar day prior to a club's seventh regular season game (including any bye week) and continuing through the day after the conclusion of the 11th regular season weekend, clubs are permitted to begin practicing players on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform and Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness for a period not to exceed 21 days. Players may be activated during the 21-day practice period, or prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the day after the conclusion of the 21-day period, provided that no player may be activated to participate in a Week 6 game.

At any time after six weeks have elapsed since a player was placed on Reserve/Injured or Reserve/Non-Football Injury/Illness, each club is permitted to designate one player for return from either list to the club's 53-player Active/Inactive List.

The player who is "Designated For Return" must have suffered a major football-related or non-football-related injury after reporting to training camp and must have been placed on the applicable Reserve List after 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the day after the final roster reduction.

Garcia, as noted above, was placed on the NFI list on Saturday. However, according to the NFL, only players moved to the reserve list after 4:00 p.m. ET the following day are eligible to be activated off NFI at a later point during the season. Consequently, it looks like the 23-year old will not return this season as his undisclosed injury forces him to remain sidelined for the foreseeable future.

As a result, the Patriots will likely continue to move forward with last year's backup tackles Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle.