Patriots Notes: Brace Set To Step Up

Ron Brace hasn't had much of an opportunity to show he's ready to contribute to the Patriots roster after being injured much of his first two seasons. 2011 may be a different story.

--DL Ron Brace made a positive impact on the coaching staff this year, but his season ended in disappointment when he landed on injured reserve toward the end of the year and missed the playoffs.

"It was really hard," he said. "Playing throughout the whole season and finally you get close to what you're working for, you can almost smell it, and then you can't play. Words can't explain what it does to you if you're sitting there watching it and you're a player, but if anything, it gave me more motivation for next year because we came that close and I'm trying to get even further and be a part of it."

--TE Aaron Hernandez recently underwent surgery on his right hip to repair an injury that plagued him toward the end of his rookie season.

The word on Hernandez's surgery surfaced when he helped out his brother at a football camp in Connecticut while on crutches and informed the students in attendance that he had gone under the knife.

--Patriots strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik was recently honored as the league's 2010 Strength Coach of the Year -- the third time he's won the award. Woicik, who also served in the same capacity with the Dallas Cowboys, was one of Bill Belichick's first hires in 2000. He's leaving to return to Dallas next season.

--The Patriots made some changes to their coaching staff. Harold Nash, a former assistant strength and conditioning coach, was promoted to replace the head strength and conditioning coach, Mike Woicik.

Brian Ferentz was promoted to tight ends coach and George Godsey has joined the staff as an offensive assistant.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel real good. From where I was, having surgery and on crutches for a couple weeks, you're pretty down then, but you progress every day." -- K Stephen Gostkowski on recovering from a quad injury that landed him on injured reserve in 2010.

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