Ex-rugby player Ebner: 'Maybe I got a screw loose'


Ex-rugby player Ebner: 'Maybe I got a screw loose'

FOXBORO -- One thing was clear after speaking with Patriots draft pick Nate Ebner on Saturday evening's conference call: He was as shocked to be drafted as anyone.
"I just didn't want to expect anything and I didn't want to get overly excited," he said in a rush. "I hoped I would get a chance to be on a team -- especially the Patriots -- and words can't describe how excited I am to be a part of this organization. The fact I got drafted it just makes me so happy. And my family's happy and we're so excited about the opportunity. I'm really at a loss for words about the whole thing."
You see, Ebner isn't just an undrafted free agent-type talent who snuck into the seventh round. He's not, at his core, a football player.
Ohio State's website lists just two career notes for defensive back Ebner: Rugby convert to the secondary; joined the Buckeyes as a walk-on in 2009.
"It was a long drawn out process," he said of the switch. "I was playing rugby, especially age grade stuff, and I was down at the World Cup in college and I couldn't do the professional rugby and college at the same time.
"I wanted to play football my senior year in high school and I didn't. So I decided I'd go out for Ohio State -- what better college program would you want to be a part of. Ohio State especially as a kid growing up in Columbus. I did it and it's worked out pretty well."
Ebner gave pee wee football a shot as a kid, but rugby is in his blood. Ebner said his father played and so he's been around the game since he was six years old. Unfortunately, that influence outlives his dad; Jeff Ebner was killed in 2008 when a robbery was attempted at his auto salvage business.
Nate appears not to mourn as much as honor.
"Obviously, it was devastating. Nobody wants to lose their father -- especially the way that happened. But, the type of person he was and our relationship, I can only draw strength from it. I never really was one to pity myself. I don't know how he would feel about me feeling bad for myself because he was gone.
"He would say every day, 'If I die tomorrow, I wouldn't be mad about it, the way I lived.' So I don't want to, as a son, be sad about it. If I just try to draw strength from it. I'm so lucky to have a person like that in my life, especially as a father figure. He was amazing."
Rugby is now happily shelved, with all due respect. Ebner, despite having zero expectations of being drafted, will now fight for a chance to play for the defending AFC Champion Patriots.
Play where? Maybe not the secondary. Though he played both nickel back and safety at Ohio State, Ebner was considered a special teams stalwart at Ohio State.
"I was a safety and practice with them a lot I got a couple plays in a game at nickel back but my role at Ohio State, they wanted me to play special teams and that's what I did. The coaches wanted that and I gave everything I had into that. I baked up Tyler Moeller at nickel back last year and obviously some safety stuff. Just did what the coaches needed of me."
If any aspects of his first sports love will help in this next venture, it's tough to say.
"It compares in the fact that we hit each other and there's a lot of running and some big dudes. I don't know that it compares a lot. I'd say the speed of the game and the tackling are similar, but they're very different sports. I guess when it's time to come down and hit somebody, as we're running down on kickoff, I'd say that's very similar to the time we come down in a rugby game and you've got to hit somebody."
Kickoff, you see, is his favorite part of the game.
"Because because, I don't know why," he laughed. The attempted explanation was muddled with intensity. "I just enjoy running down as fast as you can. It's just mayhem, it's exciting. It's such a rush. I don't know. It happens so fast it's just one big blur and then it's over. I just love it, it's amazing. Maybe I got a screw loose."
Sounds like, at least, Ebner will give New England's special teams units a much-needed jolt. It's hard to know what else to expect -- from a rugby player.

Felger: 'The Oakland Raiders are garbage, and they always have been'

Felger: 'The Oakland Raiders are garbage, and they always have been'

Want a classic Felger rant? Or forget Felger; a classic rant, period?

Watch the video above as Michael Felger eviscerates the Oakland Raiders.

"You know what the Oakland Raiders are? And their fans, and their city? A bunch of dirtbags," Felger said Tuesday on Felger & Mazz. "If that's not the most overrated team and organization in the history of sports, I don't know what is . . . That is a garbage organization and it has always has been.

"And the way people are treating them now, like . . . the Green Bay Packers or the Boston Celtics or the Montreal Canadiens or the New York Yankees are moving, is laughable. Laughable! The Oakland Raiders are garbage. And they always have been."

There's more . . . ,much more. Watch the video to hear the full treatment.

Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

PHOENIX -- The NFL has announced which rules, bylaw and resolution proposals passed following Tuesday's vote at the Arizona Biltmore. The full list is below, but here are a couple of the noteworthy changes from a Patriots perspective . . . 

* That leap-the-line play that Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin have executed for the Patriots over the course of the last two seasons? That's been prohibited, as expected. The league did not want coaches to be responsible for putting a player in a position where he may suffer a head or neck injury. (Which is different from a player putting himself in that position with a split-second decision to leave his feet mid-play.)


* Receivers running pass routes can now be considered "defenseless." That means that even within the five-yard "chuck" area beyond the line of scrimmage, receivers will have some measure of protection. The Patriots, like many teams, have called for linebackers to disrupt the routes of shallow crossers, which can lead to monster hits on unexpecting players. Those types of collisions may now be fewer and farther between.

* Crackback blocks are now prohibited by a player who is in motion, even if the player is not more than two yards outside the tackle box at the snap. What's the Patriots connection here? It seems as though the overtime play that won Super Bowl LI -- during which Julian Edelman came in motion and "cracked" down on corner Brian Poole -- is now illegal. We'll look for clarification on this when the league holds its press conference describing the rules changes later on Tuesday.

Approved 2017 Playing Rules Proposals

2a. By Philadelphia; Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. (Final language will be available on NFLCommunications.com)  

8.   By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. 

9.   By Competition Committee; Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only. 

11. By Competition Committee; Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection. 

12. By Competition Committee; Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped. 

13. By Competition Committee; Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews. 

14. By Competition Committee; Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock. 

15. By Competition Committee; Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

Approved 2017 Bylaw Proposals

4.     By Competition Committee; Liberalizes rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility for one year only. 

5.     By Competition Committee; Changes the procedures for returning a player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness to the Active List to be similar to those for returning a player that was Designated for Return.  

6.     By Competition Committee; The League office will transmit a Personnel Notice to clubs on Sundays during training camp and preseason.

Approved 2017 Resolution Proposal

G-4.     By Competition Committee: Permits a contract or non-contract non-football employee to interview with and be hired by another club during the playing season, provided the employer club has consented.