Bracing For Impact

After struggling to have an impact as a rookie, Patriots DL Ron Brace learned that the NFL is a whole different game than college. Now Brace is learning how to be a better defender, one who can have an impact in the pros. The former second round pick needs to step up his game if he wants to see the field more this season.

Defensive lineman Ron Brace, a Springfield, Mass., native who struggled as a rookie last year, is using the experience of summertime workouts to hone his skills and sharpen his mental approach to the game as he enters his second season.

At times, Brace felt overwhelmed last year, but being at the OTAs now with a little more familiarity of everything is helping him settle into a more definitive role.

"For someone coming out straight out of college straight into the real world, you have this job where everybody's yelling at you to do something and you don't know what you're doing and you basically have to catch on quick and catch up with the pack," he said.

Brace only played half the season last year, which was a bit of a letdown considering he was a second-round pick. He admits now he feels like a different player than he was a year ago, and that's good news for the Patriots, who are looking for their next great backup lineman ?- someone who can fill Jarvis Green's shoes.

"It was kind of a humbling experience for me because I didn't get to play," Brace said of his rookie season, "but it also opened my eyes to let me know there's still work to do.

"You ain't the big man around here anymore. There's another big man. You've got to learn your role and fall in and just work on trying to excel."

Brace has a legitimate chance to play a key role on this year's defensive front. The Patriots embrace players with versatility, so Brace's first order of business is to absorb everything thrown at him and prove he can be relied upon to fill various roles when asked.

This year, he's wearing Green's old No. 97. With it comes a lot of responsibility and big shoes to fill.

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