Free-agent Nate Ebner is currently training for a tryout to earn one of the 12 spots for the United States National Rugby Team that will compete in the Tokyo Olympics come the Summer of 2021. Yet, when it’s time for the New York Giants to buckle their chinstraps come Week 1 against the Denver Broncos in MetLife, head coach Joe Judge fully expects to have his special teams ace at his disposal.
“Technically Nate is a free agent right now, but we fully intend for him to be a member of the Giants,” Judge told reporters during the team’s rookie minicamp. “He has to go through Olympic rugby training and we’re supporting him with that.”
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Judge Has Gone Through a Similar Experience With Ebner in the Past
Prior to Judge being named Big Blue’s head coach and before Ebner was named the team’s special teams captain, the two worked hand-in-hand in Foxborough for eight seasons, helping guide the New England Patriots to three Super Bowl victories.
Five years ago, Ebner was a participant in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio and didn’t return to Patriots’ practice until August 16th. However, that didn’t stop him from having arguably the most prolific campaign of his nine-year playing career.
“That’s an experience I’ve been through with him before,” said Judge. “Actually, he returned from the Olympics in 2016 and had a tremendous year for us. So, I’ve gone through this before with him. I understand exactly how his training applies, rugby and can lead into football, and look, honestly it was one of his most productive years ever.”
A special teams maven during his time with the Patriots, Ebner posted a career-high 19 tackles during 2016, while playing 80% of the team’s special teams snaps — second only to his 81% snaps played for the Giants in 2020. His efforts in 2016 earned his second-team All-Pro honors.
“He’s a guy that’s very locked in and focused,” Judge noted of Ebner. “He was a captain last year and is a great team leader. This team, what he’s helping build is very important for him and while I don’t speak for anyone else, I don’t mind echoing that for Nate because I know I can speak very directly and honestly. But look, he’s a very important part of this team and we look forward to getting him back.”
Ebner Played the 2nd-Most Defensive Snaps of his Career in 2020
Ebner, who signed a one-year deal with the Giants last offseason, found himself as part of the team’s defensive back rotation more than the coaching staff would have likely preferred. In 16 games, Ebner logged 39 defensive snaps due to injuries on the backend. While that may not sound like a lot, it’s the second-most defensive snaps Ebner has ever logged in a season throughout his career.
With that said, Big Blue’s conscious effort to elevate the talent in their secondary this offseason — along with a healthy Xavier McKinney — will more than likely allow Ebner to focus the majority of his time on where he tends to make the most difference — special teams.
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