Lions' top pick Eric Ebron tested in minicamp

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (Detroit Free Press) -- Eric Ebron's welcome-to-the-NFL moment came early.

Ebron was on the field running routes, learning the offense with some of the Lions veterans this week when tight ends coach Ron Prince told his new rookie to take a rep with the first team.

Ebron lined up, looked to his side and couldn't believe he was standing next to Calvin Johnson.

"It's fun," Ebron said. "When you're lining up beside Calvin Johnson and he asks you, he be like, 'Are you good?' And I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm good,' but you're still shaking because you're lining up beside Calvin Johnson. But it's fun, man. It's fun to touch bases with people like that and understand where they're from and their personalities, not just think that they're superhuman but they're human, too."

Ebron was the star attraction on Day 1 of rookie minicamp Friday, though reporters only saw a quick glimpse of him blocking, taking part in a special-teams drill and doing some primal position work during the 20 minutes of open practice.

The 10th overall pick in last week's draft, Ebron is expected to play an immediate and significant role in what the Lions believe will be a diverse and high-powered offense.

First, though, the North Carolina product has to learn a playbook he admitted is "challenging" already.

"Of course your head is swimming," Ebron said. "I think I had a migraine 30 seconds after we started going over the playbook. But it's very fun. It's very fun to learn new things and once you grasp it you can do it full speed, you understand why they're coaching you so far."

Ebron and the rest of the Lions' eight-man draft class, plus 12 undrafted free agents, 23 tryout players and a handful of practice-squad holdovers, went through about 2 hours of drills Friday and have two more practices today and Sunday.

Coach Jim Caldwell said the goal is to inundate the group with the playbook so that by the time training camp rolls around in July they'll be caught up enough to contribute.

Along with Ebron, second-round pick Kyle Van Noy is expected to be a Day 1 starter at outside linebacker, and midround defensive linemen Larry Webster and Caraun Reid could be rotational players up front. Kicker Nate Freese is the favorite to win that job as well.

"We're certainly throwing a lot of information at them," Caldwell said. "We try to saturate them as much as we possibly can with that information so the young guys that we have that we're anticipating are going to have to help us during the course of the year at least have a chance of grasping the material."

Ebron, like all rookies this time of year, is a work in progress in that area, but Caldwell said it didn't take long for him to show off other parts of his game.

In the drills open to the reporters Friday, Ebron caught the few short passes thrown his way and ran effortlessly downfield while covering in a return drill.

Some veterans, Ebron said, already have remarked and reacted like they expect big things from him this year.

"He's just what he's supposed to be," Caldwell said. "He's a big, athletic guy that certainly moves extremely well, covers a lot of ground, and he's learning quickly as well."


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