Eric Ebron talking, laughing, catching TDs in revival season

INDIANAPOLIS -- There's rarely a time Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron isn't talking.

In the locker room? He's talking nonstop.

On the practice field? Yep.

During team meetings? He has to give his thoughts, he says.

On the sideline during games? He walks up and down supporting his teammates.

On the field during games? Definitely, and it ramps up after he catches a touchdown to go with his celebration dance.

"That's E," receiver Chester Rogers said. "Even coach Frank [Reich], he's laughing. It's a good nonstop talking. You're more worried if he's not talking."

Ebron doesn't hold back on why he's constantly talking, joking and laughing. It's because he's having fun again. The fun goes beyond his being tied for the NFL lead in receiving touchdowns, with 11. Ebron says it's the most fun he has had on the football field and around teammates and coaches since he was at the University of North Carolina. All those elements have factored into a season that could land Ebron his first Pro Bowl spot in his five-year career.

"It was similar to this back in college because I had a bunch of dudes in the locker room that were like my brothers," Ebron said between yelling across the locker room to several teammates. "Same way it is here. We all sold out for each other. We were never really selfish. We were never in any competition. Same way we are here. Nobody is selfish in this locker room. Really what we try to be is a complete offense, so it allows everybody to have a lot of fun because nobody is selfish."

Ebron has been every NFL fantasy player's dream in 2018. He's a tight end with wide receiver skills. He has become Andrew Luck's favorite red zone target because he has the speed to outrace a linebacker and the size to go over the top of a smaller defensive back to snag the ball in the end zone.

Ebron's next touchdown reception, which he's aware of, will surpass Dallas Clark for the most by a tight end in franchise history. Ebron has gone from having 11 touchdowns in 56 games with the Detroit Lions to getting one every four receptions this season in Indianapolis.

"What he has shown me and us as a team repeatedly, he practices hard, he focuses in hard, he's really smart, he pays attention to detail," Reich said. "I think that's why we are seeing him have the year he is having."

Nobody knew what to expect from Ebron, who was released by the Lions, when the Colts signed him to a two-year, $15 million contract last spring. His strongest attribute -- his hands -- continually failed him during his four years in Detroit, where he earned a reputation for having a case of the drops.

It was likely more about where Ebron was selected than his overall production. He probably wouldn't have been looked at as a disappointment had he not been selected No. 10 overall in the 2014 draft, when the Lions could have chosen receiver Odell Beckham Jr. or defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

The Colts weren't worried about Ebron's reputation. Reich, in his first season as coach, envisioned using him the same way he used tight Zach Ertz during his two seasons as offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles.

"We're not going to turn down playmakers," offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni said. "It was a fresh start with us because I hadn't been there through any of the drops. I still don't know about the drops. I mean, I watched some tape and saw, 'Hey, this guy can make plays.' We were thrilled to have a playmaker with the ability of Eric, and I think that we just started trying to find out ways that we were going to get him the football. To us, it was, 'Hey, it was a fresh start.' Again, for the most part, every time we've thrown him the ball, he has made plays."

Tight end has been the Colts' deepest position this season, which has allowed them to use Ebron in situations that play to his strengths. They can keep him off the field in obvious running downs when they need a blocker more than a pass-catcher, but that could be changing soon. Jack Doyle (kidney) was placed on injured reserve Monday, and fellow tight ends Erik Swoope (knee), Mo Alie-Cox (calf) and Travis Hewitt (ankle) are also dealing with injuries.

"Eric has thrived in the role that he's had," Sirianni said. "We don't want to get him off that routine too much. But it'll change. Everybody's role will change a little bit based off one of your better players going down. Everybody is going to be asked to step up in different ways they weren't asked in the past because Jack filled that role ... They'll all be Jack by committee."

It wouldn't be surprising if Ebron has already been in Reich's and Sirianni's ears suggesting he's ready to take on a larger role. Reich recently said, jokingly, "ignoring can be a powerful tool" when it comes to Ebron constantly talking.

"We always tell each other, tell players, you got to be yourself, but there is a two-sided coin," Reich said. "Being yourself doesn't mean that you can do anything or be anything you want to be. You have to balance that off with discipline and focus. I think Eric has done a great job of that."

Said Ebron: "I like to voice my opinion a lot. Sometimes it's unnecessary. If you're talking all the time, it can't always be good. As I got older, I started to pick and choose my battles."

He could find the tallest building in Indianapolis and use his loud voice to scream at the top of his lungs that the Lions made a mistake in releasing him. But that's one of those "unnecessary" times to be "petty."

"All I want to do is move forward because everything in the past is in the past, and everything that's in the future is -- in my mind -- always that much better," Ebron said. "I knew I would have fun again. Just had to continue to trust the process that I was going through. I eventually knew I would prevail at the end because I've been through much worse. Just a matter of time."