Patriots

Patriots

Rob Gronkowski is the kind of athlete that could pick up just about any sport and succeed. Just ask his teammates.

Patriots safety Nate Ebner will be spending part of his summer at the Rio Olympics competing for the USA Men's Rugby Sevens team, and he told the Dan Patrick Show on Thursday that Gronkowski could probably find some success as a rugby player himself if he ever picked it up.

"How would Gronk be at anything that is physical?" Ebner said. "I think that answers that. He's a beast. He'd have no problems."

For now, Ebner is the lone Patriots player making the transition from football to rugby -- though it's a familiar transition for him. He's played rugby for most of his life and was a star at Ohio State before focusing on football with an eye toward joining the ranks of the NFL.

When he realized he might have an opportunity to represent his country in the 2016 Summer Games, he and the Patriots coaching staff discussed his options. Though they knew that if Ebner made the team -- which was announced earlier this week -- he would be missing time during training camp, he got the OK from coach Bill Belichick and the rest of the staff. They've supported him in his dream of reaching the Olympics ever since. 

"We had a lot of conversations about my desire to try to become a part of the Olympics," Ebner said. "Many conversations were had. Ultimately, they've backed me the entire way, they didn't neglect me, and I'm extremely thankful and grateful they gave me this opportunity because without that blessing I don't know that I would be here."

 

Since Ebner has a rare place in history as an NFL athlete with the ability to play rugby at an Olympic level, Patrick asked Ebner about the toughness required for each sport. Ebner couldn't pick one sport as the clear-cut No. 1 in that regard.

"There's things about both of them that make them very tough," Ebner said. "It just depends on what your definition of toughness is, really. If it's about how hard you hit, I'd say football is probably going to take that one just because of the physicality of the game.

"But there are aspects to rugby which are extremely tough when it comes to a cardiovascular standpoint [with] the amount of milegage we have to run in such a short period of time, but you also have to tackle and get back up and compete. There's a very tough aspect of cardiovascular fitness is in rugby, especially rugby sevens, that you don't see in football."