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Catching up with Ron Brace

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the Patriots gathered for the start of training camp in late July, one line of thinking was that 2011 would be a make-or-break year for defensive lineman Ron Brace.

It hasn't really turned out that way.

The 2009 second-round draft choice has what looks like a secure spot on the 53-man roster, but he's more of a depth player at this point. Brace dresses on game day, but his on-field contributions are limited behind Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love and Gerard Warren on the defensive tackle depth chart. Since coming off the physically unable to perform list, he's played in all five games and logged 42 snaps (including penalties).

Arguably Brace's most positive contributions have come in the goal-line/short-yardage package where his 6-foot-3, 330-pound frame has helped establish the line of scrimmage. The three plays he was on against the Colts came at a key point in the game, after the Colts advanced to the 1 and were stuffed in the second quarter, forced to settle for a field goal.

"I'm just trying to take advantage of the opportunities that have been given to me," Brace said this week.

As for his season to this point, he talked about playing catch-up.

"I know it's going to be a hard road I'm going to have to take," Brace said. "I missed camp and the beginning of the season, and having a new defense put in, I knew coming in that I was going to have a lot on my plate. I'm just trying to be an effective part of the defense."

Brace has played a few different roles over the last three years.

The Patriots worked him as a 3-4 nose tackle behind Vince Wilfork as a rookie, before kicking him out to left end in the 3-4 last year. Now it's defensive tackle in the 4-3, which is similar to what he played at Boston College.

As for any preferences, Brace said, "I like just playing football. Any one of them, once you learn your role, it's pretty much just playing football. That's the part I need to get back to. Everyone else is rolling and I need to get on that same train."