FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots running back Kevin Faulk and defensive linemen Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick returned to practice Tuesday, the first day they were eligible after starting the season on the physically unable to perform list.
The Patriots, who have two open spots on their roster, do not need to place them on the 53-man roster right away. According to NFL rules, the team has three weeks from the player's first day of practice after being removed from the PUP list to make a decision on their roster status.
For Faulk, it was his first practice since tearing his ACL in September 2010.
"I'm not really concerned about the health issue, I'm just concerned about going out there and practicing and not messing up too much," Faulk said in the locker room Tuesday before the practice session.
Faulk, now in his 12th season and the longest-tenured Patriot, called the wait to return to practice "long" but he's no longer looking back.
"Now it's getting back to what you love to do and go out there and practice," he said, adding that he's "pretty close to 100 percent."
Asked if he's anxious and excited, Faulk said: "All the above. At the same time, I'm trying to keep it under wraps. It's practice, not a game."
For Brace, the practice session -- a blue-white scrimmage on the Gillette Stadium game field -- was his first since tearing an elbow ligament Dec. 26 against Buffalo. He's had Oct. 18 circle on his calendar for the better part of the past two months.
Brace deemed himself in good health but admitted he won't know for sure until he gets back on the field. Limited to 22 games over his first two seasons in the league, Brace is eager to get back out there 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]," Brace said before Tuesday's practice. "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."
"I just remember they told me, 'It's the end of the season for you,' " Brace said while recalling the Buffalo game last year. "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, but rehab was hindered by the lockout, preventing him from working with members of the New England training staff.
But now it's time to get back to work. Playing in a base 4-3 defense should allow Brace more opportunities for activity, but he also knows he has to work his way back into the rotation.
"I still gotta find out where I'm going to fit in with this D-line," Brace said. "Again, I haven't had a snap since Dec. 26, so I have a lot of catching up to do."
Among those not present at Tuesday's practice -- the first of two for the Patriots during their bye week -- was quarterback Tom Brady. In his absence, backup Brian Hoyer led one team, while rookie Ryan Mallett led another.
Although Brady was spotted on the bench with a wrap on his right arm during Sunday's game against the Cowboys, his absence Tuesday likely is just a case of the team giving him rest.
Brady was spotted in the locker room prior to practice but does not have any scheduled media interviews this week. The team does not have to release an injury report during its bye week.
Also not spotted at the start of the scrimmage were defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (back), cornerback Ras-I Dowling (hip), linebacker Dane Fletcher (thumb) and offensive tackle Matt Light, who was hobbled late in Sunday's game with an apparent leg injury.
Dowling did not play in Sunday's game; Haynesworth and Fletcher did.
Also practicing were safeties Sergio Brown (chest) and Josh Barrett (hamstring), wide receiver Julian Edelman (ankle), offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back) and linebacker Jerod Mayo (knee), who all missed Sunday's game. Barrett had a large black cast on his wrist/hand in the locker room prior to practice.
Players were in light shoulder pads and shorts/sweatpants for the scrimmage.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Mike Rodak is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.