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Brace returns to the field

08.15.10 at 11:59 pm ET
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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.

‘€œIt feels really good ‘€” words can’€™t describe it,’€ he said after his first padded practice, roughly a two-hour session on Sunday afternoon. ‘€œI’€™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.

‘€œI say I’€™m basically whatever they want me to be,’€ he said. ‘€œAny 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 ‘€œhumbling,’€ 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.

‘€œMy weakness was trying to remember the football deal,’€ he said Sunday. ‘€œ[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.

‘€œI feel a little more confident,’€ he added. ‘€œI’€™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.’€

Read More: Ron Brace, training camp,
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