Nate Ebner to apply Rio rugby lessons to Patriots

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Nate Ebner's Olympic journey is over, and while he isn't returning to the New England Patriots with a medal, he feels he has learned important lessons from his time in rugby sevens.

Ebner and his U.S men's rugby teammates came to Rio targeting a spot on the podium, but those dreams ended on Day 2, leaving the team with a ninth-place finish. Ebner, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots, now returns to his franchise with a new outlook on pressure situations and with added tackling techniques he is eager to try in the NFL. He said it will be a "little strange" returning to the Patriots but that it is also second nature, as he has been with the team since 2012.

He said he believes his time in rugby has had an impact both on him and on his friends and family, who told him they have enjoyed watching him in rugby as much as football. Ebner will return to the United States with plenty of stories, though it will take time for the whole experience to sink in.

From his time in rugby, Ebner learned that he can be very focused, and he has developed an increased mental resilience in the face of mistakes.

"The biggest thing I take from rugby is that it's so relatable to life, as in so many things can go wrong quickly, but you can't dwell on it, and the quicker you put it behind you and get on to the next task, you have a better chance of succeeding," Ebner said.

"It teaches you not to dwell on things which have gone bad. No one has ever played a perfect sevens game, and you have to go with the punches. And when things don't go your own way, you have to go to the next task.

"Football is a little different as turnovers are two a game, and while you want those back, rugby is really that way -- you have to get back up and play again later in the day. There are a lot of things to learn about rugby as a sport and what it's taught me in my life from a character standpoint and the camaraderie with my teammates. They're friends I'll have for the rest of my life, and I could talk about rugby forever."

On the field, Ebner adapted to rugby's different tackling techniques and sees similarities with the open-field tackles he has to make in the NFL. He will look into those intricacies further when he returns to America, and he hopes to see some of the athletes he faced here in Rio give the NFL a crack in the future.

Talking about Olympic favorite Fiji's players and whether they could play in the NFL, Ebner said: "They'd be great, look at them.

"They invaded the contact area, and if they picked up the rules, I'm sure they'd be great -- just like some of those American football boys, if they grew up with rugby, I'm sure they'd be great too. Hopefully we can get guys like that in the USA playing rugby."

The whole experience of the Olympics left Ebner with no regrets, despite the U.S. team's ninth-place finish. He will hang his U.S. shirt proudly on the walls of his house alongside his Patriots jerseys.

"It's been a once-in-a-lifetime amazing experience that I'll remember forever for what it is individually, and I remember the Super Bowl in the same way," Ebner said. "It's been awesome and I'm lucky that I've got to experience both."