The biggest of the news of the day involving the Patriots was undoubtedly the trade of Chandler Jones, but the most interesting item probably dealt with Nate Ebner.
The Patriots safety, who recently agreed to a two-year deal as a free agent, will be quite busy during the offseason as he takes a leave of absence from the team in an effort to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic Rugby team. He will begin training after being given permission from the Patriots, and if he makes the club he would be potentially rejoin the team after the competition, which takes place Aug. 6-11.
"From my background obviously, rugby's always been a part of my life since even I was 6 years old," Ebner said during a conference call on Tuesday. "I probably picked up a ball and started playing and watching my dad play so it's always been a part of my life. I grew up with rugby like [how] most kids probably grew up with football, or basketball or baseball. For me, it's always been around.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="424506"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]"I've been in contact with USA Rugby like I said for a while. I've known some of these coaches since I was 15, 16 years old. I've always been in touch. I had my conversations with people as I would go to the Las Vegas Sevens Tournaments and watch the World Series circuit there and talk to [people] as I watched other games everywhere else. I've always wanted to play.
"Obviously, I'm playing with the Patriots but just through expressing that and seeing the opportunity that they have available to me, we just talked it out and now I'm here. I don't know the specifics in that but I think it worked itself out."
Ebner explained that he discussed the situation with Bill Belichick and was grateful for the opportunity the organization gave him. He also said his place on the national team is by no means a sure thing, but he intends to devote his time doing everything he can to be in Rio Janeiro when the Olympics begin.
"I am absolutely not guaranteed a spot," he said. "I have to try out for the team like anybody else and I have to earn a spot like anybody. I'm just lucky to even have the opportunity to even try."
Ebner was an All-America rugby player at Ohio State before the Patriots selected him in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. He's been a fixture on special teams while seeing part-time duty at safety as well.
"Growing up playing rugby, you don't have the opportunity to play in the Olympics," Ebner added. "The best thing you could get to really was the World Cup because rugby wasn't in the Olympics. So, to see now that it is back in the Olympics in the form of Sevens in Rio in 2016 and to be a part of something I watched growing up and that has as much tradition as the Olympics and the time and effort put in to perfect your craft for something that comes around once in a lifetime for some people. The idea to potentially be a part of something like that is humbling and it would be amazing."