FOXBORO, Mass. — Dressed head to toe in USA gear, Nate Ebner met the media Sunday morning for the first time since returning from the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The New England Patriots safety, who represented the United States in rugby sevens in Rio, reflected on his Olympic experience, which consisted mainly of hours upon hours of practice.
“I’d say it was probably what I thought it would be,” Ebner said. “I don’t know. I didn’t go in there with high expectations. I’d never been to an Olympics before. I didn’t know what it would be like. I just knew we’d be training every day and we had a job to do, and when you’re focused like that, really that’s all that matters.
“I thought it was a cool experience to walk in the opening ceremony and be in the Olympic Village and see all the athletes and the people you’ve seen playing their sports in other arenas, if you will. To bring it all together like that, it was a pretty cool experience.”
Ebner got to catch one USA basketball practice — he posted a photo with Kevin Durant and Draymond Green on his Instagram — but said he had little time for sight-seeing amid the two- or three-a-day training sessions that preceded the three-day Olympic rugby tournament.
“When we first got there, we probably trained every day — multiple times a day,” Ebner said. “I got to see a lot of the Olympic Village and things of that nature, but we just came to do a job and trained most of the time. A lot of the guys that stayed afterwards got to experience some stuff, but I came back as soon as it was over.”
As he pursued his Olympic dream, which forced him to miss all of the Patriots’ offseason workouts and nearly the entirety of training camp, Ebner received an outpouring of support from his Patriots teammates and coaches.
Fellow special-teams ace Matthew Slater donned Ebner’s No. 43 practice jersey during one training camp session, the New England coaching staff wore T-shirts with his name and rugby number (12) on them during another, and head coach Bill Belichick gathered the entire team together to watch the U.S. beat up on Brazil in its second Olympic match.
“I can’t say enough about these guys here,” said Ebner, who played in four of the U.S.’s five matches and scored two tries. “It meant the world to me to have that support.”
Ebner returned to the Patriots earlier this week and dressed for Thursday’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears. He did not play in that game, however, and acknowledged he still has work to do to get himself back into football shape.
“Right now, I’m focused on today,” Ebner said, declining to offer a timetable for his return to game action. “And then I’ll focus on tomorrow, taking it one day at a time to get myself back going. We’ll just see what happens. I don’t really have a set plan.”
Thumbnail photo via Dan Powers/USA TODAY Sports Images