New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner is taking a leave from offseason football training to join the U.S. rugby sevens program with a goal of making the Olympic team, according to USA Rugby.
Ebner, 27, has been mostly a special-teams player for the Patriots since being drafted in the sixth round in 2012.
He was a rugby standout a decade ago for U.S. junior teams at World Championships and at Ohio State, before he walked onto the Buckeyes football team as a junior.
“We are aware of Nate’s rugby background from his high school and college days, and this was the key to him being in a position to compete with the current squad,” U.S. coach Mike Friday said in a press release. “We will be able to condition him over the next six to eight weeks to be more aligned with rugby and work with him to get him up to speed on his skills and tactical understanding.”
Rugby returns to the Olympics in August for the first time since 1924, but the difference this year is that it will be the sevens version rather than the more traditional 15 players per side.
That will make Ebner’s quest more difficult, as the U.S. Olympic team will include 12 players total.
The U.S. rugby sevens team has four more World Series stops in April and May ahead of the Rio Olympics. It is ranked fifth in the series standings through six legs.
If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.
Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.
Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.
If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.
Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.
The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.
Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.
The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.
Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.
Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.
Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.
The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.