|Brace returns to the field||08.15.10 at 11:59 pm ET|
FOXBORO — And then, there were none.
The last Patriots’ player who was there since the start of training camp but had yet to put on the pads finally got a chance on Sunday. Defensive lineman Ron Brace — who was in Foxboro since the start of camp on July 29 but was unable to pass his conditioning test — put on the pads for the first time all summer on Sunday afternoon.
The Boston College product, who missed a total of 18 days and 22 practices, was excited to be back out on the field.
“It feels really good — words can’t describe it,” he said after his first padded practice, roughly a two-hour session on Sunday afternoon. “I’m just happy to be back out here working. Trying to catch up with these guys, working forward, trying to get ready for Atlanta.”
Brace’s return may have been accelerated by the news that veteran Ty Warren will be out for the season after he was place on injured reserve with a hip injury over the weekend. Brace has some positional versatility, and while he might be known primarily as Vince Wilfork’s backup at nose tackle, he has spent a lot of time at defensive end.
On Sunday, he was out there at left defensive end, working with a reasonable facsimile of the starting defense as the Patriots continue to try and examine their options at the position now that Warren is gone for the season.
“I say I’m basically whatever they want me to be,” he said. “Any day I could be at left end, one day I could be nose, one day I could be at right end. I’ve just got to be ready for every position on that line.”
It has been a difficult year for the 23-year-old, who fully admitted that the 2009 season was a lost year for him. He admitted that his rookie year was “humbling,” and added that he wasn’t prepared for the mental grind that comes with playing in the NFL. That showed on the field, where he was an inactive for seven games and suited up but didn’t play in an eighth.
“My weakness was trying to remember the football deal,” he said Sunday. “[Now], I find myself being more aware on the field right now from a lot of studying that playbook and learning football as a game. It’s just not the defensive side. It’s the offensive side also.
“I feel a little more confident,” he added. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the meeting room focusing on learning offensive tendencies, what the defense needs to do. I feel a little more mature, and little more comfortable mental-wise.”
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