By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – After the first day of rookie mini-camp, Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell gave a good report on first-round pick Eric Ebron. So far, Caldwell said, Ebron has been as good as advertised.
“He’s just what he’s supposed to be,” Caldwell said Friday. “He’s a big, athletic guy that certainly moves extremely well, covers a lot of ground, and he’s learning quickly as well, so he’s adapting and doing all the things you would anticipate he’d do.
“Let’s just put it this way – his reputation preceded him, and he’s living up to it,” Caldwell added before tempering his comments, just as he had promised he would. “But like I said, we’ve still got to put pads on.”
Learning the playbook poses a significant challenge for Ebron, just like it does for all rookies. He said that while difficult, the work has been fun, too, particularly when he learns plays well enough to execute them well on the field.
“He’s working at it,” Caldwell said. “There’s a lot of information he’s going to be given. He’s been here since Monday. He’s done a nice job thus far. He’s engaging, I think as you can see by his personality, he loves the game, has great passion for it, and usually when you find a guy that’s determined and has great passion plus you add that to his talent level … obviously you’ve got a pretty big upside.”
All smiles when he spoke with media Friday, Ebron appeared to be enjoying his experience thoroughly. He spoke excitedly about a Wednesday workout in which assistant head coach Ron Prince sent him out to line up beside superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson to run a play. In telling the story, Ebron sounded positively giddy.
“When you’re lining up beside Calvin Johnson and he asks you, he’ll be like, ‘You good?’ And I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I’m good,’ but you’re still shaking because you’re lining up beside Calvin Johnson,” Ebron said, eyes wide with glee, face lit up with a kid-on-Christmas grin from ear to ear. “It’s fun, man. It’s fun to touch bases with people like that and understand where they’re from and their personalities, not just think that they’re superhuman but they’re human too.”
Ebron knows that, as the first-round pick, he faces higher expectations than the rest of the rookies. Some of the veterans, he said, anticipate that he will be contributing right away, perhaps to the point of starting this season, a scenario that seems likely.
“Some believe that, to be a first-round pick, you’re not here to sit the bench and cheerlead,” Ebron said. “You’re here to produce, to come in and help us win. They don’t have to say it; sometimes you can just see it on their faces. Or when they talk to you – a veteran doesn’t come up and say ‘What’s up?’ to everybody or introduce [himself]. You can just tell that they have respect for you, and the things that you think that you can accomplish, they want the same thing.”
Ebron said he has talked with veteran tight end Brandon Pettigrew – also taken in the first round by Detroit, albeit back in 2009 – because their lockers are near to each other. If Ebron’s reenactment of their daily greeting is any indication, so far the interactions have been positive.
“Every time I come in he’ll be like, ‘Wassup, dog?’” Ebron said with his trademark joyful grin, “and I’ll be like, ‘Wassup, bruh?’”
Unlike a few of the other rookies, Ebron has not signed his contract yet. He seemed totally unconcerned about that matter, however, saying that the Lions and his agent would take care of it.
Ebron’s focus is on the field, and the more he learns the offense, the more convinced he grows of how he can help the Lions.
“It’s going to be incredible,” Ebron said. “Definitely getting the opportunity to play beside Pettigrew, Calvin, Reggie [Bush] and Golden Tate and all those guys, you can see how the playbook and my position can open up the voids and the areas where those guys can sign by just the attention that I’ll receive.”