Carolina Panthers

Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron gets an early Carolina homecoming

It didn’t take long for former North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron to have a homecoming.

Ebron, the No. 10 overall pick by the Detroit Lions in May’s draft and a former standout at Greensboro’s Smith High School, returns to North Carolina on Sunday to face the Carolina Panthers in a 1 p.m. kickoff at Bank of America Stadium.

He was targeted twice against the New York Giants on Monday night, in his first NFL regular season game, but had no catches. He also dropped what would have been a touchdown.

Stafford and Lions coach Jim Caldwell said there’s still plenty to learn for the rookie, who plays with two good tight ends in Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria.

“He plays a position that requires that he line up in a number of different areas,” Caldwell said Wednesday on a teleconference with Charlotte reporters. “Conceptually he has to be able to know all of the routes from about three different spots. Not only that he has to be able to deal with protections, the movements that we have in our scheme, all of those things he has to be in tuned to.

“Literally instead of learning one position, learning our tight end position is like learning three. So he’s a young player, he’s coming along and making good progress. And when he gets it all together obviously I think you’re going to be able to see that he’s going to make a lot of big plays for us.”

Extra points: Panthers linebacker and special teams ace Jason Williams did not participate in practice due to a thigh injury. The Panthers filled the practice squad spot vacated by tackle Andrew McDonald with guard Derek Dennis, who was at training camp with the team this summer.