Lions’ Ebron: It’s time to ‘be great’

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Lions tight end Eric Ebron said the criticism and 'bust' label doesn't bother him.

Allen Park — Despite being 23 years old and having two years NFL experience, Eric Ebron is on the receiving end of a nasty label.

Impatient fans didn’t wait long to call Ebron a bust, but Pro Football Focus called him one, too, in an article titled “Can these five draft ‘busts’ revive their careers in 2016?”

“It’s a long offseason,” Ebron said when asked about the criticism. “Somebody’s got to make money by selling something. You can come at me all you want. My childhood was a lot rougher than people talking smack on Twitter and stuff like that, so it’s cool with me.”

Even though Ebron — who sat out Thursday’s organized team activities with a minor undisclosed injury — said the criticism doesn’t bother him, he usually hears it all. In addition to Ebron being an avid user of social media, he said his mother tracks articles, too.

“She looks out for that (stuff) … and that’s my motivation,” he said. “So, if she’s upset, it gives me every reason to destroy the people that talk about me, and the only way I could do that is by performing at my best.”

The Lions desperately need Ebron to perform at his best this season. With Calvin Johnson retiring, several players will see a bump in targets. And if Ebron can capitalize with his opportunity, it should make things easier for receivers Marvin Jones and Golden Tate — as well as quarterback Matthew Stafford.

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“We’re planning for everybody to unite as one to basically try to fill that hole or be better than what we were,” Ebron said of replacing Johnson.

His first two seasons, Ebron said it wasn’t upsetting seeing the ball go to Johnson so frequently.

“What I did was I learned from him,” he said. “And now it’s time to take what he taught me my last two years with him — and still now as he watches me — and just be great.”

Improving in the NFL is a process, and Ebron followed a similar regimen this offseason to the one he had before last season. The Newark native is working out in New Jersey and said he’s doing three workouts a day, five days per week.

He said after his training sessions end, he catches 100-150 passes.

Ebron also said he turned a vacation to the Riviera Maya in Mexico last month with his brothers into a training opportunity.

Beyond the sand activities in Mexico, though, what does he do during his workouts?

“Anything you could think of, I’ve probably done it to better myself,” he said.

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Ebron looks slimmer, but his speed hasn’t been the issue his first two seasons. Struggles with route running and drops, as well as blocking, have led to criticism of his selection at No. 10 overall in 2014.

Fortunately for the Lions, Ebron showed significant improvement his second season. After having 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown as a rookie, Ebron had 47 catches for 537 yards and five touchdowns.

As for Ebron’s goals, he’s not sharing those.

“I got a few,” he said. “They’re somewhere I can see them every day.”

The goals consist of “everything I need to do to be happy with the way I play,” Ebron said.

And what would make him happy?

“Performing,” he said. “If I could be the best that I could be, with the rapport that I have with Matt now and how good we are relationship-wise, it should be fun.”

Twitter: @jkatzenstein