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Sunday NFL Thoughts: Nate Ebner’s Olympic schedule, Patriots defensive line versatility, tempers flare at Jets camp

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The Patriots safety starts his quest for an Olympic medal on Tuesday.

1. New England Patriots strong safety Nate Ebner is currently away from the team to fulfill one of his life’s dreams – and one to honor his late father, who was a huge rugby fan: competing in the Olympic games. Ebner has earned a role on the United States’ rugby sevens team and his quest for a medal begins on Tuesday. In case you want to watch Ebner and the rest of US team compete in Rio de Janeiro, here is the schedule:

August 9: United States vs. Argentina (12:00 p.m. ET)

August 9: United States vs. Brazil (5:00 p.m. ET)

August 10: United States vs. Fiji (12:30 p.m. ET)

Check your local networks to find out if the games are televised in your area or go to NBC’s web coverage to stream the events live.

Go Nate, go United States!

2. With Ebner in Brazil, the Patriots have placed him on the "Did not Report"-list, which means that they are able to keep him but he simultaneously will not count against the offseason 90-man roster limit. At the start of camp, Ebner was one of nine players on a reserve list, as New England also had seven on the physically unable to perform list and one on the Non-Football injury list.

The great Mike Reiss recently took a look at other teams to compare the number of health-related inactivities across the league. According to his research, the Patriots had the third-highest total behind only the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills with 10 apiece. The league-average at the start of camps was 4.15 players per team on either PUP or NFI.

3. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick recently gave an incredibly interesting answer to a question about defensive end Chris Long seeing reps on the interior defensive line. This further highlights the versatility New England has at the edge defender position, as Long is just one of those players who might see snaps at defensive tackle depending on down and distance.

Jabaal Sheard has seen interior snaps last season, while second-year players Trey Flowers and Geneo Grissom have seen practice reps at the position. Add the versatility of players like Rob Ninkovich, Shea McClellin, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower and it becomes clear that New England’s focus on creating a flexible defense that is able to play multiple formations and schemes is visible across the board. It will be interesting to see the unit perform this season and use its pieces in different ways.

4. Tonight, at 8:00 p.m. ET, the NFL preseason kicks off with the 2016 Hall of Fame game when the Green Bay Packers face the Indianapolis Colts. Two of the NFL’s better quarterbacks – Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck – are the teams’ starters but they are projected to see only limited playing time (if they play at all). Patriots’ fans will see two other greats working against each other this week when the team plays its first preseason game (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET) against the New Orleans Saints, who have quarterback Drew Brees on their payroll.

But before Tom Brady and Brees meet on the Gillette Stadium turf – although they are projected to mostly stand on the sidelines –, the two will work on the stadium facility’s practice fields. Their teams’ joint practice sessions take place on Tuesday and Wednesday (9:15 a.m. ET both days) and they are an offseason highlight. Make sure to be there early to get good seats and follow the sessions.

5. The dog days of camp have not only arrived in New England, they also have in Florham Park, New Jersey, where the AFC East rival New York Jets are currently molding their roster. This became evident on Friday, when two of the team’s stars went at each other. Cornerback Darrelle Revis mostly blanketed Brandon Marshall early in the practice but once the wide receiver started to get momentum and catch passes on the former Patriot, tempers started to flare.

According to reports and later confirmed by Marshall, the receiver started taunting Revis with last year’s game against the Houston Texans, that saw wideout DeAndre Hopkins beat the veteran cornerback for two touchdowns. The duo quickly traded words for physical action and started taking open-hand swings at each other. While it is certainly noticeable seeing two superstars go at each other in this kind of way, it should also not be overstated or seen as clear-cut evidence of a lack of discipline within the Jets. After all emotions run high at every training camp.