New England Patriots special teams player Nate Ebner joined SiriusXM NFL radio to discuss his pursuit of fulfilling his Olympic dream and how the Patriots have supported his decision as an organization.
Ebner was the Patriots 6th round pick in 2012 and he signed a two-year contract this offseason to stick with the Patriots. New England has focused on bolstering their special teams with replacement options if Ebner is not ready to play the season opener, while ESPN’s Mike Reiss has suggested that Ebner could start the season on a reserves list as he works back into football shape.
As far as Ebner is concerned, the lessons and the practice he’s going through for the Rugby team can and will help him when he returns to the football field.
“In order to be successful as a defense [in rugby],” Ebner said, “you really have to rely on the guy next to you to make his tackle and you can’t afford to have two guys come in and help on one player, or else it’s just going to open up too much space. You really do have to be a good one-on-one tackler and I just think that’s something for me personally that I’ve kind of progressed with through playing rugby, really in the beginning through all the time I played rugby as a young kid and through college, and just kind of taking the speed and the forcefulness of the NFL and football, and kind of combining the two, it’s really helped me.”
It’s possible that Ebner will have to work to regain his football weight after rugby ends, but it could be argued that the contact he’s sustaining while on the rugby pitch is just as, if not more valuable physical conditioning for the tolls of special teams play. Ebner knows the Patriots system, so the offseason with New England could be less physically demanding than what he’s going through for rugby.
The Patriots, for their part, understand Ebner is chasing a lifelong dream and they’re are fully supportive.
“There were multiple conversations that we had,” Ebner said about the Patriots thoughts on his rugby goals. “I think they just knew who they had in me when I was first drafted. I was a rugby player in college, I had a long background in rugby in the United States underage program and I think they just understood that I was a rugby player and my desire to go play in the Olympics was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.
“It was a lot of respect and just kind of support, that’s really all I can really say. Just the amount of support that I got from the organization as a whole has just been amazing. I’m very blessed and it couldn’t be a better situation for me.”
Hopefully Ebner can go out and have success in the Olympics and return to the Patriots with a fresh outlook on football, and with the full appreciation that he was able to make the most of his “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Listen to the interview below.