Allen Park — Three years into his professional career and Eric Ebron has yet to play a full season.
As a rookie, a hamstring strain cost him three games. A knee injury sidelined him a pair of contests in 2015, and knee and ankle issues forced him from the lineup most of training camp and three regular-season games last year.
A common cliché in NFL circles states the best ability is availability. Fully recovered from last year’s bumps and bruises, Ebron has focused his offseason routine on ensuring he won’t miss any time in 2017.
“I’m doing Pilates, now. Don’t tell anybody,” Ebron said. “I just do a lot of things that can help my body, my core, my muscles stay health and be as flexible as I can be for this rough and long season.”
Ebron credited his girlfriend for introducing him to Pilates and the 24-year-old tight end has embraced the approach, hiring a personal instructor. It’s proved to be a surprisingly challenging workout.
“I was shaking really bad — my legs, my core, my whole body was shaking really bad,” Ebron said, describing his first workout. “That’s all I can remember. And I could not stop sweating to save my life.”
Yoga and Pilates have become commonplace in NFL locker rooms as players look to the exercise routines for preventive care because they increase flexibility and add core muscle strength. Whether it’s able to help Ebron remains to be seen.
But Pilates certainly isn’t the biggest change for Ebron this offseason. On Twitter last week, he announced he was expecting his first child. Son Oliver Dash Ebron is due in late October, right around the Lions’ bye week.
“It makes you look a lot of things a lot differently — the way you go about every day, the way you spend your money,” he said. “It puts a lot of things into perspective. Things like this, playing football. What you’re playing for now, it changes that. Pretty much your attitude toward attacking things every day. It’s more motivation than it is pressure, for me.”
In three years, Ebron has shown steady improvement since being selected by the Lions in the first round of the 2014 draft. He’s coming off his most productive season, catching 61 passes for 711 yards.
“You take a look at it and see his production,” coach Jim Caldwell said last week. “He’s gotten better. If he improves at the same rate he’s improved the last two years, it’s going to be a pretty outstanding season for him, but he just keeps getting better. He keeps working at it and that’s what he has to do.”
Continued improvement could determine Ebron’s his long-term future with the Lions.
The team recently waited until the May 2 deadline to exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. Ebron said he was appreciative of the organization’s continued belief in him and wasn’t bothered by how long the team took to publicly announce its decision.
“It’s their timing, it’s what they want to do,” Ebron said. “I can’t control that. It’s out of my realm, out of my element. I just play football.”
That option will keep Ebron in Detroit through 2018. Beyond that, his future remains up in the air. He did indicate he’s had some casual conversations with general manager Bob Quinn about a long-term deal.
“Just say Bob is my guy and we talk often,” Ebron said. “You know, we have things in place and we’ve had our own talks. He’s looking for some things from me and hopefully I can give him what he’s looking for.”
Ebron and the Lions are currently going through voluntary workouts. The team will begin OTAs next week with mandatory minicamp being held June 13-15.