FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots reached their 90-man roster limit Wednesday by bringing in offensive lineman Jon Halapio and veteran tight end Bear Pascoe on the day players reported for training camp.
Additionally, safety Nate Ebner was placed on the reserve/did not report list, essentially giving the team a roster spot exemption. Ebner is training with the US men's rugby team for next month's Olympic Games in Rio.
"I've talked to Nate several times [and] wish him well in his endeavor,'' said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "It's a great opportunity to follow his passion [and] participate in the Olympic Games. We're pulling for him to bring back something around his neck.''
Halapio was a sixth-round pick by the Patriots in 2014 but was released at the end of training camp. He spent the final weeks of that season on the Broncos practice squad. He signed with the Cardinals in 2015 but was cut at the conclusion of training camp. He has yet to make his NFL debut.
In addition to having the best first name in the game, Pascoe has seven years experience with the Giants, Falcons, and Lions. He has 40 catches for 336 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 85 career games. Known as an above-average blocker, Pasco has an additional five catches for 39 yards and a TD in four playoff games.
Cheering for Ebner
Belichick wasn't the only one to wish Ebner well as he goes for the gold. Matthew Slater said he's been keeping tabs — and in touch — with his fellow special teams standout.
"I've had several conversations with Nate, several phone calls,'' said Slater. "I'm just so happy for him. And I know why rugby means so much to him, and many of us are familiar with the situation with his father, and his father obviously introduced him to the game. So, that connection with father and son is bigger than sport itself. I know that means a great deal to him and we're all excited for him. I'm just trying to figure out where I can get my Ebner rugby jersey. I'll be supporting him and watching him along the way.''
In fine shape
Belichick indicated he was pleased with the team's annual conditioning run that takes place the day before the first on-field workout. Players can't practice until they pass the test.
"All the guys that were able to run ran well. I think the team looks like it has worked hard,'' he said. "I think we're in good football condition. I think [strength and conditioning coach] Moses [Cabrera] has done a good job with the training of the group. It looks like the guys that are ready to go are ready to go.''
Defensive tackle Alan Branch was placed on the non-football injury list, with a hip injury, the Boston Herald reported . . . Josh McDaniels's name is perennially at the forefront of the rumor mill when head coaching vacancies open up around the NFL. He said Wednesday he'd welcome the opportunity to be a head coach again after serving in that capacity in Denver in 2009 and part of 2010. "This is an incredible place to work, I love being here,'' he said. "I'm happy to do this job as much as I can, as long as they'll have me. [But] I do want to be a head coach at some point in my life. I've learned a lot over the last how many years and hopefully gained a lot of wisdom.'' . . . Running backs coach Ivan Fears said he doesn't feel his group has any added pressure to perform with a young quarterback under center for the first four games. "No, I think it's the same every year,'' he said. "Don't think that's going to be the only way we're going to win. All I'm going to say to you is we're going to find a way to win. That's what we're going to do."