New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner made the United States Olympic team for rugby and will not be around for the start of the preseason. All rugby matches will take place during the first week of the preseason, while the Olympics closing ceremony aligns with the third week of the preseason.
There’s a very real chance that Ebner will not be around for the bulk of the preseason and the Patriots will have to find a way to ensure he doesn’t affect the roster limit.
While Ebner will be in great shape on his return, he likely won’t be in football shape and will need some time to adjust back into the Patriots system. “There is no roster exemption for players who make the Olympics,” the NFL told Pats Pulpit in a statement, so what will the Patriots do?
First, the Patriots “can count the player on the Active Roster the entire time,” per the NFL, which would mean the Patriots just eat the roster spot and move forward with just 89 active players. This sounds very unlike head coach Bill Belichick, so I would assume the Patriots have a back-up idea.
Second, the Patriots “are also able to use the Reserve/Did Not Report list for a player in this position, provided he does not show up to Training Camp on his designated report date,” per the NFL. Veterans are required to report to the Patriots on July 27th and that is the target date for the Patriots to place Ebner on the “Did Not Report’ list.
According to the NFL, the Patriots have not made any roster requests for Ebner at this point in time, but it’s still early.
Players on the “Did Not Report” list have to apply to the Commissioner for reinstatement, per the NFL Bylaws. Teams also have to request reinstatement from the Commissioner if the player remains on the list after the trade deadline, and players are also prohibited from coming off the list in the final 30 days of the regular season. Players on the list do not count against the roster limits.
So look for the Patriots to make a move on Ebner around July 27th to open up a roster spot.
Sidenote: Ebner received $500,000 guaranteed when he signed his two-year extension with the Patriots, but that money is to be delivered in two separate periods. I think Ebner received half of the money on signing and will receive the other half the day he reports to camp, but that’s just my speculation.