Vrabel: Ebner has athleticism to flourish in NFL

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Vrabel: Ebner has athleticism to flourish in NFL

When the Patriots used a sixth-round draft pick on Ohio State's Nate Ebner -- he of the 23 tackles in three college seasons -- eyebrows arched.

But the high regard given Bill Belichick's football acumen (grudgingly in some circles) ensured that while eyebrows moved, tongues didn't wag.

Belichick gets the benefit of the doubt.

Belichick noted when he took Ebner that this wasn't a lark. He had OSU references, most prominently Mike Vrabel. The former Patriot joined the Buckeyes coaching staff last year and he gave a stamp of approval to Ebner, a former rugby player.

Whether Ebner turns into an every-down safety or is used almost exclusively on special teams will be borne out in the next few years. But Vrabel says there's a chance Ebner will flourish in the NFL.

"Hes got the ability to run at a high rate of speed and move and bend without slowing down," said Vrabel. "He can run through traffic without losing speed. Guys that cover kicks and maintain their speed in traffic are what you're looking for."

Vrabel sees Ebner's rugby background as a plus. "Whether you play rugby or wrestle as in Stephen Neal's case, you develop good balance, good body control. When you are a national caliber athlete in a sport, chances are there will be carryover."

The immersion of Ebner will begin Friday when rookie minicamp opens providing the first glimpse into what Ebner can become.

"Time is what hes gong to be afforded now and (the development of his skills) is what they hope happens," said Vrabel. "(At Ohio State) you dont have as much time with a player, just a few hours a day. So the ceiling may be what it was at OSU but with eight to 10 hours a day of work, he now has the ability to grow as a player. The tools are there. In college, there's only so much time you can give individual guys. That's going to change. And he's a great kid, I hope nothing but the best for him."

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

NFLPA tells rookies to be like Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe

The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.

“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”

Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.

Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.

“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL


Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”