Injuries leave Lions thin at tight end

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Injuries have been an issue for the Detroit Lions’ tight ends since last season and that’s spilled into this year’s training camp.

Starter Eric Ebron hasn’t been a full participant in practice since the first day of camp after suffering a hamstring sprain, and on Wednesday backups Khari Lee, Tim Wright and Cole Wick joined Ebron on the sideline.

That left the team working undrafted rookie and wide receiver convert Robert Tonyan into some of the first-team offensive work, pairing up with Darren Fells in the team’s two-tight end sets.

The Lions are so shallow at the position, this week they had to sign undrafted rookie Andrew Price, who caught 16 passes as a senior for UNLV in 2016. That addition came one week after the team re-signed Wright.

And while the situation isn’t quite as dire as last season — when Wright suffered a torn ACL early in the offseason, Brandon Pettigrew was never able to return from an ACL tear the year before and Ebron missed most of training camp with an ankle injury — the Lions would welcome some good news at the position.

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Ebron continues to inch his way back toward practice, after briefly taking part in individual drills during last week’s joint practice with the Indianapolis Colts.

“He just got a couple issues that he’s dealing with,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s just got a couple things, and he’s not quite ready yet. So, hopefully he’ll continue to heal and we’ll get him back out there soon.”

Ebron’s durability has been a problem his three years in Detroit, having missed multiple games each season. Caldwell was asked if he anticipates health to always be a problem for his young tight end.

“I hope not,” Caldwell said. “He’s had a few here and there but hopefully he’ll get into a point where he gets a pretty healthy stretch going. But sometimes you find guys that are highly explosive guys, they may have an issue once in a while. Hopefully, he can battle through it.”

In addition to the four tight ends, guard Laken Tomlinson, offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas and defensive tackle Bruce Gaston also sat out Wednesday’s practice.