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Allen Park — It was one practice in June, still weeks away from training camp.

But it created a firestorm of excitement.

Tight end Eric Ebron, who struggled his rookie season, was catching every pass thrown his way.

With confidence and authority.

"(It) was a good day for him," coach Jim Caldwell said of the 2014 first-round pick. "It's just like I tell him, you have to be able to stack them one on top of each other. That's the mark of a quality player."

Ebron had 25 receptions for 248 yards and one touchdown last season.

But a little over a month from the start of camp, Ebron is feeling like a different man.

"Learning how to be myself," Ebron said. "That's what made me so good at (North) Carolina. I was who I was and no one was going to change that.

"Now, I'm starting to come out here and being who I am and making sure nobody is going to changing that. Get comfortable."

And who is Eric Ebron?

"A bad man," he said, eliciting laughter.

Teammates believe Ebron can be the type of impact player the team needs.

"I can't wait to get him out there in Week 1 and show him off," wide receiver Golden Tate said. "He's matured a ton.

"You see him making plays — I saw him make a one-handed grab (in workouts) like it was no big deal. That's the Eric Ebron I want to show on Sundays."

Ebron maintained his confidence last season through the struggles, and Tate believes that will benefit him this season.

"Eric has been comfortable in his own skin from Day 1," Tate said. "You have to admire that, he's consistently Eric, he's not going to be one guy one day and someone different a week later. He's more comfortable and has even more confidence, he knows he can play ball and be a force on this team.

"We just expect him to do that."

Having a better feel for the offense, and understanding how good life is for him with receivers like Calvin Johnson and Tate around, also is helping Ebron's progress.

"When you get the Calvin Johnson effect and Golden Tates coming in, it leaves you one and one with a linebacker or safety or whoever they (the defense) wants to play you with, that's love man," Ebron said.

The passes are being caught, the confidence is there, and he's talking and carrying himself like a successful NFL player.

But it's a daily process.

"He certainly has the capability and he is working hard at it," Caldwell said. "He had a good day today, and I told him let's see if he has another good day tomorrow. That's the key."

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tkulfan

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