Westfield Ind. — Suddenly, football is fun again for Eric Ebron.
He’s smiling and shouting, celebrating scores and making big plays look routine at training camp. Inside the Colts’ tight end meeting room, teammates hear him asking questions and offering suggestions, virtually certain Ebron will play a prominent role in Indianapolis’ new offense.
It’s everything Ebron wanted — a second chance to showcase his skills and finally live up to the hype surrounding him when he entered the NFL.
“My deal is to just take it to the next level,” Ebron said shortly after signing with the Colts in free agency. “At this place, I have a new start, I have a new finish. I have a new rep and that alone means a lot.”
Ebron thought he could have achieved more in Detroit.
So did the Lions, who drafted the North Carolina product with the No. 10 overall pick in 2014.
They believed the Ebron’s 6-foot-4, 253-pound frame and 4.6-second time in the 40-yard dash made him a nightmarish matchup for opponents and figured Ebron could stretch the field down the middle and open up the outside for Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
Instead, Ebron’s reputation was damaged by injuries and a perceived propensity for dropping passes.
He struggled with a pulled hamstring as a rookie, missed two games the next season because of a strained knee and three games in 2016 because of a bruised knee and sprained ankle. Last year, he missed most of training camp with a pulled hamstring but finally managed to play in all 16 games for the first time in his career.
Ebron’s stats weren’t bad once he got started: 47 receptions for 537 yards and five TDs in 2015, 61 catches for 711 yards with one TD in 2016 and 53 catches for 574 yards and four TDs in 2017. They just weren’t the mind-blowing numbers everyone anticipated when he was a hot-shot prospect.
So the Lions decided to let a frustrated Ebron test free agency rather than exercise their fifth-year option.
Turns out, a change of scenery could be the perfect remedy to jump start Ebron’s career.
Colts tight ends coach Tom Manning convinced Ebron he’d start with a clean slate and a coaching staff that values tight end mismatches. It was an offer too good to pass up.
“Tom had so many little stats and tapes put together and it is about treating him (Ebron) the right way,” offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. “He is a phenomenal talent so we would be foolish not to want him on our team.”
The Colts insist Ebron could still become the player the scouts projected.
He’s only 25 years old and provides Luck with another critical option alongside Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton and Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle.
And, of course, Ebron took note of just how creative coach Frank Reich was last season as offensive coordinator for Super Bowl champion Philadelphia.
He’s not lobbying yet to throw a pass to Luck, like tight end Trey Burton did in the Super Bowl — though nobody would put it past the fun-loving, energetic newcomer.
Dog trainer charged
A 5-year-old English bulldog that belonged to Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo and has been missing since June has been found dead inside the home of its trainer.
The Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says the dog named Knox died in the custody of a trainer. In an Instagram post on Monday, Mayo writes that trainers hid the dog in a trash bag for two months while making it look like he ran away, was stolen or drowned, sending the family “on a wild goose hunt and our kids on an emotional roller coaster.”
The animal welfare group says the trainer is being charged by the Cranston Police Department with one count of obstruction and could faces charges of animal cruelty.
The Cardinals have lost starting center A.Q. Shipley for the season because of a torn right ACL and will replace him with rookie Mason Cole (Michigan).
Shipley, a six-year NFL veteran, started all 16 games each of the past two seasons.
Tom Heckert, a former personnel executive for the Broncos who also served stints as general manager for the Browns and the Eagles, has died following a long illness, the Broncos said. He was 51.
... The Falcons have agreed to a three-year contract extension with safety Ricardo Allen.
... The Patriots have released receiver Malcolm Mitchell.