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Brace eager to hit someone

Chris Forsberg/ESPN Boston

Defensive lineman Ron Brace talks before returning to practice Tuesday at Gillette Stadium.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- No need to remind Patriots defensive lineman Ron Brace that it's been nearly 10 months -- 297 days to be exact -- since he last played a defensive snap. He rattles off the date of his injury -- Dec. 26 in Buffalo -- without even having to think about it. And he's had Oct. 18 circled on his calendar for the better part of the past two months.

Brace, who started the 2011 season on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list, expected to return to practice Tuesday. The team will have three weeks now before he has to be added to the active roster, or shifted to season-ending injured reserve. Brace deemed himself in good health, but admitted he won't know for sure until he gets back on the field. He's just eager to hit someone for the first time this calendar year.

Limited to 22 games over his first two seasons in the league, Brace is excited to be back out on the field after being detoured by the elbow injury.

"It's more like a freak accident -- I was playing my regular technique and the next thing you know, I couldn’t use [the elbow]," said Brace. "I went to the sideline, found out it wasn’t attached any more. I got it fixed, now I’m starting my season. I'm waiting to get out there and see how it stands."

Expanding on the injury, he notes: "I just remember they told me, 'It's the end of the season for you.' That’s all I really remember. Right then and there, I said I have to start getting ready for next year."

That was easier said than done. Brace underwent surgery and rehab was hindered by being unable to work with members of the New England training staff during the lockout.

But now it's time to get back to work. Brace knows that playing in a base 4-3 defense -- like the one he played in at Boston College -- could allow him more opportunities to get on the field, but he also knows he has to work his way back into the rotation after the Patriots beefed up that position during the offseason.

Even still, with Mike Wright and Myron Pryor already placed on season-ending injured reserve, there's an opportunity for him to step in and carve out a role.

"I still gotta find out where I’m going to fit in with this D-line," said Brace. "Again, I haven’t had a snap since Dec. 26, so I have a lot of catching up to do."