Nate Ebner: I didn’t want to regret not trying to go to Olympics

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On Tuesday, Patriots safety Nate Ebner announced that he would be taking time off from football this offseason in order to train with the U.S. rugby sevens team with an eye on making the team that will compete in the Summer Olympics in Rio this August.

It’s the first time that rugby sevens will be an Olympic event and Ebner said on a conference call that the possibility of pursuing “your first passion” at that level was too much for him to pass up. Ebner didn’t play football until his junior year at Ohio State because of his rugby pursuits and said that coach Bill Belichick understands that passion, although there was still some uneasiness involved in asking for the time off.

“Yeah, of course. I’m going to miss a few things that I don’t want to but at the end of the day it’s a really big opportunity for me,” Ebner said. “When it comes to my personal life it’s something that I don’t want to regret not trying to do, and I don’t know that if I didn’t try it that it wouldn’t have been something that I would’ve strongly regretted. At the end of the day I’m kind of living with no regrets and it’s something that was important to me and that’s really all that it took to think about for me to kind of make that decision.”

If Ebner makes the team — he says he’s “absolutely not guaranteed a spot” — he’ll rejoin the Patriots in mid-August. While he’ll be missing time until then, Ebner thinks the rugby training will “help me with everything I do from the standpoint of tackling, conditioning” during his absence and it’s hard to imagine he’ll be in anything but top condition after several months of training for the highest level of competition.