By: Will Burchfield
Eric Ebron has been quieter on social media and in the Lions' locker room of late, and louder on the field.
Jim Caldwell takes that for more than a coincidence.
Asked if Ebron's toned-down ways on social media and with reporters have been by design, Caldwell said, "It's really a good thing, absolutely. Oftentimes that's with anybody. The less they talk, I think the more they can concentrate on what's going on in terms of trying to do what they're getting paid to do."
"I've always adhered to that. Matter of fact, I wouldn't be standing here in front of you unless I was forced to," Caldwell joked.
The outspoken Ebron has made headlines on Twitter in the past, including a couple times this season. He got into a spat with Giants safety Landon Collins in September and he riled up the Lions' fan base on October when he declared, "Boooo me all u want."
After the second incident, former NFL tight end Wesley Saunders advised Ebron against getting into it with fans on social media.
"It's a fight you'll never win," Saunders told him.
Ebron later clarified his comments, explaining he understands where the fans are coming from, but the damage had been done. Perhaps someone sat him down afterward, because the 24-year-old tight end hasn't been nearly as provocative on Twitter in the time since.
(The closest he's come to controversial is calling out the refs during the UNC-NC State game last month. Ebron is a proud product of Chapel Hill.)
But it's not just on social media. Ebron has also spoken with reporters less in the last few weeks, and has been more measured when doing so. This is another forum where he's talked himself into trouble in the past, mostly because he's not afraid to share what's on his mind.
In advance of the trade deadline, when it seemed likely Ebron was going to be dealt, he all but talked his way out of town.
"I think I left a pretty good mark," he said. "If I get the opportunities, then I make plays. If not, it is what it is. I mean, they boo me the hell off the field anyway."
Ebron likes the cameras because he craves attention. But he's sought less of it of late.
Coincidentally or not, he's stepped up his play. He's caught 22 of 26 targets for 215 yards in the Lions' last four games. He set career highs in both catches (10) and yards (94) in Sunday's win over the Buccs. After looking like a lost cause and landing squarely on the trade block halfway through the season, Ebron has picked up the pieces.
He also became a father in October. His son, Oliver Dash Ebron, has changed his life.
But Caldwell wouldn't go so far as to credit fatherhood for Ebron's resurgence.
"He's played well before, just take a look at his numbers. It's not new," Caldwell said. "I do know one thing. It's had an impact on him, like it does with all young men that become fathers. It's a huge turning point in your life and you realize very quickly about the responsibility. He's a responsible father and certainly very, very close to his child.
"But to say that that was the reason why -- he didn't have a child two years ago or the year before that. I just think he's doing what he knows how to do."
And changing something he used to do.
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