THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Brace set to work

Patriots lineman learned his lesson

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / February 24, 2011

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If issues with the collective bargaining agreement are not resolved soon, NFL players will not be participating in team-sponsored activities and will not have access to team facilities. They will have to work out on their own.

That doesn’t scare Patriots defensive lineman Ron Brace. Brace, entering his third season, said he may have learned his biggest lesson about offseason preparation last year. He didn’t pass the conditioning portion of his physical and missed 22 practices before passing the test.

It is something he doesn’t expect to repeat.

“Basically, I just had to learn what was going on,’’ Brace said. “I feel like I’m better educated now, so that same situation won’t happen again.’’

There will be plenty for Brace to work his way back from, as he had surgery to repair a torn elbow ligament.

With all of the information flying back and forth between the owners and the Players Association, Brace said, it can be difficult to keep everything straight. So he is focusing on things he can do for himself.

“I worry about what I can control right now,’’ Brace said. “And what I can control right now is me working on trying to get ready for the season.’’

A second-round pick out of Boston College in 2009, Brace started five of 13 games in 2010 and collected a career-best 28 tackles.

But he also suffered a concussion against the Bears and was inactive for the following game against Green Bay. He then injured his elbow against the Bills in his first game back and sat out against Miami in the regular-season finale.

The Patriots placed him on injured reserve, keeping him out of the postseason.

“It was really hard,’’ Brace 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.’’

While health is an offseason priority, Brace is working in a few other activities. He showed his cooking skills on Rachael Ray’s television show just before the Super Bowl. And yesterday, he was among the special guests who participated in the Boston R.O.C.K It program at the Strand Theatre.

Nearly 1,000 youngsters turned out for the program, which encourages Boston children to participate in activities at the Boston Centers for Youth & Families this summer.

“I just want to let the kids know they can use the resources that are available to them,’’ said Brace, a native of Worcester.

“In the summer, that was some of my most active times. You never stay in the house because in New England you don’t get that much good weather, so you enjoy whatever you get. I was outside from daybreak until the end playing basketball, flag football, or whatever.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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