When the NFL announced the Hall of Fame game would be canceled Sunday evening, football fans across the country collectively groaned. Some of the grumbling came because many fans don’t buy into the preseason hype of watching backups fight for roster spots, but many other fans were disappointed because the Hall of Fame game represents the first pro football fix since February.
If you fall into the latter group, fear not: you can get a taste (albeit a little different taste) this week in Rio. For the first time since 1924, rugby is making an appearance at the Olympics and on the new U.S. national team you can catch a couple of NFL players, fast-paced action and plenty of scrums on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Big Ten fans may remember Nate Ebner, an Ohio State walk-on who earned a scholarship due to his standout special teams play. Now a safety and special teams specialist for the New England Patriots, Ebner received permission from head coach Bill Belichick to skip out on camp to play rugby in Rio.
Joining him will be former Philadelphia Eagles wideout, Perry Baker. Baker first hoped to turn heads as a burner in the NFL, but his pro football career ended before he ever took the field because of a knee injury. Now Baker has made a name for himself in the rugby world, especially after an incredible performance in London that helped the U.S. bury the iconic New Zealand national team.
If track and field is more your speed, former Detroit Lions running back and first-round pick Jahvid Best will run the 100-meter sprint for St. Lucia on Saturday. Best also had his NFL career cut short due to injuries, but before he retired he racked up 303 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns against the Bears in three games.
For fans who simply must have the NFL, week one of the preseason is *scheduled* to begin this Thursday - pending endzone and midfield paint jobs.