Eric Ebron, Colts at odds about surgery that ended his season

Blake SchusterYahoo Sports Contributor
Tight end <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/27538/" data-ylk="slk:Eric Ebron">Eric Ebron</a> and the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/indianapolis/" data-ylk="slk:Indianapolis Colts">Indianapolis Colts</a> are at odds regarding his season-ending surgery. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Tight end Eric Ebron and the Indianapolis Colts are at odds regarding his season-ending surgery. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Eric Ebron’s season is over. The tight end opting for ankle surgery that forced him to injured reserve has assured that.

How it got to this point is still relatively unclear.

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Both the Colts and their top tight end have offered different stories on the nature and progression of Ebron’s injury. What remains known, however, is this: Jack Doyle is the tight end of the future in Indianapolis and the Colts are still in the playoff hunt. That much is obvious to both sides.

So how did it get to this point? Here’s what each camp is saying.

Colts thought Ebron was healthy enough to play

Back in training camp, Ebron’s ankle showed some signs of injury, but the Colts decided it was a mostly a non-issue. That’s consistent with how the team treated its tight end throughout the season. While Ebron’s numbers are down significantly this year (31 receptions, 375 yards and 3 touchdowns in 11 games after posting 66 catches, 750 yards and 12 touchdowns in 16 games in 2018), there was little reason to assume health was a factor.

Ebron had missed just one practice due to ankle injury all season and the Colts coaching staff had rarely addressed it.

The Athletic’s Zak Keefer notes that earlier this month Ebron had been arguing with his coaches for more targets and made no mention of any nagging injuries disrupting his play. Surprised by the development, Colts coach Frank Reich told the media that he was informed of a flare-up with Ebron’s ankle only two weeks ago.

According to Keefer, the disclosure is noteworthy since the Colts would’ve rested Ebron more in recent weeks, as is the case with most of Indianapolis’ veteran players who are dealing with injuries. That would speak to how little the team knew about the pain Ebron was in.

“It didn’t limit him in training camp, it didn’t limit him in the season or in practice,” Reich told the media in late November. “Then, last week sometime, I don’t know if it flared up at practice or if it was the result of a previous game, but that was the first time that it had flared up to the point where it affected him as far as practice.”

Shortly after the Colts’ Week 12 loss to the Houston Texans, the tight end approached his coach, general manager and team doctors about shutting himself down for the year.

On November 25, the team announced the 26-year-old, an impending free agent, would undergo season-ending surgery. Ten days later, Indianapolis signed tight end Jack Doyle to a three-year extension, possibly ending Ebron’s time with the Colts.

Ebron says ankle pain was ‘unbearable’

The same day the Colts were announcing the end of Ebron’s season, the tight end began offering his own side of the story in a lengthy Twitter post.

Ebron called the pain “unbearable”, and was going to have to focus on his health because he could no longer give his team a boost. Here’s where things get a bit more gray.

Following the surgery, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted Saturday that the Colts had known about Ebron’s pain all year. According to Rapoport, not only should Reich not have been surprised by the severity, but the team had been administering shots of Toradol to Ebron before games.

The tweet referenced Keefer’s story which instantly prompted a response from Stephen Holder, who’s covered the Colts with Keefer for years, first with IndyStar and now with The Athletic.

Which brings us back to what we do know for certain. Ebron was having a down year and required season-ending surgery on his ankle. The Colts, usually exceedingly careful with rushing veteran players back from injury (see: Luck, Andrew), only had him miss practice once due to an ankle injury. All the while, the team is still forging ahead with a late bid to sneak into the playoffs.

There’s a lot that’s unknown here and maybe that’s the way it stays. As teams continue to harbor status reports on their players as if they are state secrets, disputed communications like this will certainly happen again across the league.

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Blake Schuster is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at blakeschuster@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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