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Brace buckled when he saw Patriots playbook

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots, probably with two hands, gave rookie defensive lineman Ron Brace his playbook in May, he wasn't prepared for the sheer size of it.

"It looked like a phonebook with a binder around it," Brace said. "I was like 'I know I'm in for a hurting right now.'

"I'm getting a headache trying to read this, but I know I've got to do it. It's my job now. I don't have to worry about class. I have to worry about the playbook. That's my history right there I've got to learn."

In speaking with reporters about his transition to the NFL, Brace mentioned his playbook no fewer than seven times.

"The playbook is my biggest battle right now," said Brace, the Patriots' second draft pick and the 40th overall.

Brace has been hunkered down over his playbook more intensely than ever now that Patriots coach Bill Belichick has him splitting time between nose tackle and defensive end. Brace started 37 straight games at defensive tackle for Boston College, registering 11 tackles for losses and three sacks.

"It was kind of a shocker," Brace said when of being informed he would get reps at end. "I knew I had a lot more studying to do. I had to turn off the phone."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the 6-foot-3, 330-pound Brace has the vitals to play defensive end.

"When you look at Ron, he's got that frame," Belichick said. "He's got good height and a good long frame to play end as opposed to some players who might be big players, you know, 300-pounders, but don't have the length to play out there. I think Ron has that combination of size and power and length.

"You're playing against offensive tackles that are 6-5, 6-6 and 34-inch, 35-inch arms. It's hard for a 6-1 player to play against."

The Patriots mainly drafted Brace as insurance for stud nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who is unhappy with his contract. Wilfork is entering the final year of a six-year deal he signed as a rookie and will make a $2.2 million base salary -- well below his market value.

Brace claimed he's not thinking about how Wilfork's future will apply to him.

"I can't really tell the future right now," Brace said. "I've just got to concentrate on that playbook right now. I just got to learn my role first before I can make any aspirations for the future with this. Right now, I'm just trying to make the team."

Not that Brace is reading this -- How can he? He apparently spends all of his time studying that monstrous Patriots tome -- but I can tell him a little bit about his future:

You're going to make the team.

The Turk's not going to drop by your locker to say, "The coach wants to see you. Bring your playbook."

That thing's all yours.