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Lions’ Eric Ebron won’t talk about injured leg

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Eric Ebron and Jim Caldwell talk on the field Monday morning in Allen Park.

Allen Park – When it comes to Eric Ebron’s injured right leg, mum is the word.

If nothing else, the positive news is the Detroit Lions tight end attended Monday’s practice, walking with just a mild limp while watching the session from the sidelines. He was not wearing a cast or walking boot. That alone should quell fears he ruptured his Achilles tendon after needing to be carted off the field during the team’s mock game at Ford Field on Saturday.

Ebron avoided the media after practice, walking the long way around to take a side entrance through the team’s weight room back into the practice facility.  Although easily within earshot, he did not acknowledge reporters’ request for an interview.

Coach Jim Caldwell fielded a half-dozen questions on the topic, but declined to elaborate on Ebron’s injury or how long the tight end could potentially be sidelined.

“I'm not going to talk about injuries or anything,” Caldwell said.  “You guys should know that by now.”

But given Caldwell’s history of providing updates for season-ending conditions, the long-term outlook for the situation doesn’t appear as dire as it did in the immediacy of the injury.

Rookie WR Lee’s performance stands out for Lions

A final tea leaf worth reading came when the Lions announced a roster move before practice and it didn’t involve adding a tight end. Instead, the team swapped out receivers, waiving Damian Copeland and signing Alex Chisum.

Even with all the positive signs, the still-lingering potential of a long-term injury highlights a bleak picture for Detroit’s tight end situation. The team is already thin at the position with Brandon Pettigrew still recovering from an ACL tear suffered in December and Tim Wright on season-ending injured reserve, also with an ACL injury.

That leaves the Lions a depth chart topped by blocking tight end Matthew Mulligan and undrafted rookie Cole Wick.

The 6-foot-6, 255-pound Wick, who made a strong impression early this offseason, has seen an immediate increase in reps with the first-team offense with Ebron out.

“Yeah, he’s growing,” Caldwell said about Wick. “Last spring I thought he caught onto things fairly well and now we have a lot more information going in, it happened a lot faster. But I think he’s hanging in there, he’s working at it and doing a good job.”

Wick hauled in a short touchdown during the fourth quarter of the mock game, following the Ebron injury, and was a regular target for quarterback Matthew Stafford during Monday’s practice.

Undrafted out of the University of Incarnate Word, Wick had a surprising number of offers from NFL teams after the draft. He said calls came in from the Carolina Panthers, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Bucs, among others.

Wick – who grew up in Texas watching Jason Witten, but idolizing the physicality of New England’s Rob Gronkowski – always believed he could play in the NFL despite being lightly recruited out of high school. Lightly recruited might be an understatement, seeing as Incarnate World was his only scholarship offer.

“There are doubters, at every level,” Wick said. “I’m just going to go out and play, do what I can with the opportunity I’m given and hopefully change their minds about what they’re seeing.

“The guys who did doubt me, I’d do anything I can to prove them wrong.”

Beyond Wick, Mulligan noted the Lions had been working him into the passing game more than he anticipated after signing as a free agent this offseason, even prior to Ebron’s injury. Still, in 81 games over eight professional seasons, Mulligan has recorded just 17 receptions.

“Nobody can be somebody else. We can only be who we are,” Mulligan said on Saturday.  “If it comes down to it, and they call my number, I’ll be ready.”

Until Ebron returns, the Lions will have to make do with the patchwork crew.  There are still a handful of names available on the open market, such as Owens Daniels, Alex Smith and former Lion Joe Fauria, but as the team heads to Pittsburgh for a pair of joint practices with the Steelers, it appears the plan is to stand pat.

The No. 10 pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Ebron caught 47 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns last season. Healthy, he is expected to have an even larger role in the offense this year.