By: Will Burchfield
Eric Ebron just wants the opportunity to play a full season.
Then, he believes, he won't be seen as unreliable and injury-prone. He won't be viewed as a recurring disappointment.
"If I can get a full 16 games, man, they'll be a lot less hate upon me and the things I do. I plan on it this year. I'm praying for it, I need it. I want it so that I can fulfill my goals," Ebron said on Friday.
The tight end has yet to play a full season since being drafted 10th overall in 2014. He missed three games as a rookie (hamstring), two games as a sophomore (knee), and three games last year (knee, ankle). He's confident he can put an end to that streak this year, and has his sights set on a lofty goal should his body cooperate.
"Everybody sets their goals high, but the one thing I made a promise to my family and to myself is that I'm going to do my best to make it to the Pro Bowl, because I feel like I'm capable of it. If I have three more games under my belt and the full 16-game season I don't see no reason why I can't," said Ebron. "I have high expectations and that's one thing I really want to accomplish."
The injury trend continued for Ebron this summer when he hurt his hamstring on the first day of training camp. He didn't return to practice until late August and missed all four of the Lions' preseason games.
Does it bother him that he's considered a fragile player?
"That's you guys (the media), honestly. It's you guys, it's fans. You guys mark that label: 'Injury-prone.' But I do everything I can for my body, I've tried new things. It's the game of football. I'm going to try to play at 100 percent every game, but it's likely not going to happen. That's just how this game works," Ebron said.
Lions fans have grown increasingly frustrated with Ebron's inability to stay healthy, in no small part because he's shown the ability to be a difference-maker. Some have questioned his commitment to staying in shape and others have wondered how badly he wants to be on the field every Sunday.
"I don't care, you're not in my shoes. You don't know," Ebron said. "If you played football or played in the NFL you would know that this is a 100 percent injury sport. At no time do we ever go out there and play completely healthy. We get hit. We're humans, we have bones, we have muscles and those things can wear down and tear down throughout the long season or offseason depending on the things that you have.
"I'm going to go out there and fight every Sunday no matter what condition I'm in."
Ebron's reputation isn't helped by the fact that fans often see him goofing around on the sideline when he's hurt. That was the case during training camp this year and last, and it sends the message that he isn't all that concerned about getting healthy.
"Again, this plays a role into you guys," said Ebron. "That's pretty much what you guys see, but my teammates know me and my personality. I'm going to bounce around because that's just my personality. I'm never going to be down about anything negative. I'm always a positive person, that's just who I am. If I was a negative guy it'd probably take me longer to recover -- think about that."
Ebron said it bothered him to miss so much time during training camp and preseason. He didn't like watching his teammates practice as he was stuck on the sideline. But he knows he has to be cautious with his body.
"I tried to go out there when we played Indianapolis. I couldn't. That's just how my body was responding to the treatments. I'm always pushing myself, always pushing my body. It's not something I want to do, I don't want to sit here and be on the bench. But I've got to listen to my body because at the end of the day, after football I only got one body. It's not like I die and come back -- no, I only got one of these," said Ebron.
Ebron will be good to go for the Lions' season-opener versus the Cardinals. He isn't concerned about all the lost time, pointing out that he missed most of the team's preseason program last year and performed well in Week 1.
"I'll be ready," he said. "I'll be ready for however much I have to play."
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