Lions’ Ebron has a lot to prove after shaky rookie season
If Eric Ebron is doing a lot of push-ups every day in practice — or, worse yet, after games — it’s a bad sign for the Detroit Lions.
For every dropped pass he makes, Ebron has pledged to do 15 push-ups as a self-imposed punishment.
It’s all part of his offseason plan to bounce back from a shaky rookie season.
Ebron calls himself a "totally different person" as he begins his second year in the league with the Lions’ OTA practices continuing this week.
"Just more mature," he said. "I changed everything. My Mohawk (hairstyle), everything."
Ebron, the 10th pick overall in last year’s NFL Draft, failed to live up to the expectations as a rookie. His combination of size (6-foot-4, 265 pounds) and athleticism was supposed to give the Lions’ offense another top weapon as a hybrid tight end/receiver.
But he finished with 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown, leaving some to prematurely label him as a "bust."
Asked if he was humbled during his first year in the league, Ebron answered emphatically, "Absolutely."
He was used to being the biggest, baddest and best.
"I never really heeded advice," Ebron admitted. "Now I do — from everybody."
The combination role of blocking tight end and potential downfield threat as a receiver turned out to be a difficult role for Ebron to grasp at the higher level.
"My learning curve was a little bit different," he said. "I learned a lot my rookie year. Now I know it all and I’m ready to go.
"Now it’s not the playbook. Now it’s not knowing where to line up, how to execute routes.
"It’s about the little things. What’s going to separate you from this person and this person?"
Coach Jim Caldwell wants — and the team needs — much more consistency from Ebron, but there are good signs.
Caldwell can tell that Ebron has been working hard this offseason based on his body transformation and conditioning.
"He’s in better shape," the coach said. "He’s running better in terms of his endurance. You look at his lean weight, it’s different. His muscle’s gone up, fat weight’s gone down. That’s a real good indicator of it.
"He’s been constantly working and catching. Consistency is the thing that’s key. He’s working on that."
Ebron described his offseason this way: "Wake up, work out, take a nap, work out again, go to sleep, wake up, do it all over again."
It’s an exaggeration, obviously, but Ebron does appear to realize that he needed to make some changes if he was going to have any success in the NFL.
During one practice that was open to the media last week, however, Ebron was still dropping passes, which has been the rap against him even going back to college at North Carolina.
He’s hoping those push-ups help reinforce the need for constant concentration.
"It’s not too much, it’s not too little," Ebron said of the 15 push-ups.
When those recent practice drops were mentioned, Ebron showed he cares, perhaps more than some think.
"The one over the middle, I shouldn’t have dropped," he said. "I got down on myself and it made me drop the next one.
"That’s just stuff that I’ve been practicing and I let it get to me. I’ll settle down. That will never happen again."
It will, of course, happen again, but the fewer he drops, the better chance he has of proving the Lions didn’t make such a big mistake by drafting him when they did.
The team passed on two of last year’s top rookies — receiver Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants and defensive tackle Aaron Donald of the St. Louis Rams.
Ebron is a gregarious type whose words can sometimes come back to burn him if he’s not producing.
If he’s catching passes and scoring touchdowns, that type of personality is considered "refreshing."
But if he’s not performing on the field, it can interpreted as arrogant and unfocused.
As for the perception that he’s a so-called "bust," Ebron said, "It is what it is. It’s one year. You can claim what you want to claim. (Those) opinions and statements don’t mean anything to me.
"We’ll find out in August. The whole world will, too. We’ll just watch in August."
Ebron can say he’s better and different and changed. All that will matter in the end is what he shows on the field.
Not just in August when training camp opens, but every day throughout the season, too.
He’s got a lot to prove and he needs to start doing it this year.
Former Lions tight end Charlie Sanders sadly was missing from his own golf outing Monday to support the Have A Heart Save A Life foundation, which raises money and awareness for heart check programs for high-school athletes.
Sanders, 68, has been battling cancer for several months and wasn’t able to attend.
Donations to his foundation can be made through the website haveaheartsavealife.org.