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Patriots notebook

Former BC star is braced for his second season

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / May 27, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — Going from big man on campus to low man on the depth chart was an eye-opening experience for former Boston College standout Ron Brace.

One of the Patriots’ four second-round draft picks in 2009, the defensive lineman called his rookie season both “overwhelming’’ and “humbling,’’ a candid assessment not often heard around Gillette Stadium.

A Springfield native who became a star at Worcester’s Burncoat High, Brace feels he has come a long way in just over a year.

“Definitely,’’ it was overwhelming last season, he said at yesterday’s organized team activity. “For someone coming 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 then catch up with the pack.’’

The mental transition to the NFL and to New England’s style was the hardest part for Brace. With BC, he only had to know his own gap; now he has to know not only his assignment, but also what his teammates and opponents are doing.

“There are a lot of people who are built for this game physically, but not a lot of them are made for it mentally,’’ he said. “I just had to get my mind up strong to catch up to everybody else. I had to put in a lot of work there.’’

Brace played in just eight regular-season games, though he did start two of the final three: at Buffalo and against the Jaguars. He was credited with eight tackles on the season.

As a locker-room neighbor of Vince Wilfork, Brace has found himself talking often with the veteran nose tackle, who advised him to “watch film, watch film, and learn your enemy.’’

“He was also one of the guys who said, ‘This is the path you need to take if you want to try and make it where you want to go,’ ’’ Brace said.

Perhaps as a sign that things are different for him now, Brace has changed his number from 92 to 97, worn by Jarvis Green the last several years.

Of his rookie season, Brace said, “It was kind of a humbling experience for me because I didn’t get to play. 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.’’

Catching his act
In separate interviews, Robert Kraft and Tom Brady both mentioned receiver Brandon Tate as a player to watch this season. The receiver, a third-round draft pick last year, missed nearly his entire rookie season to injury but has been participating fully in the Patriots’ offseason programs.

When New England drafted Tate, he was still recovering from a torn ACL suffered during his final season at North Carolina. He began the regular season on the physically unable to perform list, and made his debut in London against the Buccaneers in Week 7.

But the next week, another knee injury put Tate back on the shelf.

Though he wasn’t on the field for long, Tate clearly made an impression on the owner and quarterback, and some of the defensive players who practiced against the 6-foot-1-inch receiver have commented on his talent as well.

Tate isn’t letting it affect him, however.

“For me, I feel like I haven’t done [anything], to tell you the truth,’’ he said. “That’s why I’m taking this whole offseason, trying to get everything back down pat, and hopefully I’ll be out there when the season starts.’’

Tate has been watching some of New England’s veteran receivers on tape, seeking their feedback, and also trying to mimic some of what they do.

As for goals, for a player who has spent nearly 18 months rehabbing from knee injuries, Tate gives a simple answer: “I’m just focusing on what I can do right now. Just taking it one day at a time.’’

Mr. Smooth
Torry Holt had the line of the day when asked to give a scouting report on himself: “Smooth. Flat-out smooth. When you say smooth, everything comes with smooth — good hands, good feet, student, et cetera, et cetera. Just call me smooth.’’ . . . The Patriots will have one more day in this round of OTAs today, though there will not be media access; instead, Kraft, Bill Belichick, and Kevin Faulk will speak at the organization’s Community MVP awards ceremony.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com.

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