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Patriots' Nate Ebner to chase rugby Olympic dreams

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Nate Ebner is setting aside the Patriots' red, white and blue to chase the gold.

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The special teams ace is taking a leave of absence from the team effective Tuesday to begin training for the United States rugby team and the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The news comes on the same day the Patriots announced they signed Ebner to a new contract. Ebner has been a core special-teams player in New England, appearing in 47 games over the past four seasons. Ebner was third on the team with 11 special teams tackles in 2015.

Ebner, 27, was an All-American rugby player at Ohio State. The Patriots selected him in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

"First and foremost, I want to thanks the Patriots from top to bottom for giving me the opportunity to come back and play for a truly first class organization," Ebner, per ESPN. "I also want to thank them and USA Rugby for giving me the opportunity to chase a dream I've had since I was a boy in a sport in which I've always had a passion. I can't put into words how much this opportunity means to not only me, but my friends and family as well.

"I plan to represent the Patriots and our country to the best of my ability. Thanks again and go Pats and go USA."

Ebner will train at the U.S. Olympic training facility in Chula Vista, Calif. Ebner will rejoin the Pats after the Olympic rugby competition concludes on Aug. 11.

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