Zach Ertz talks about his difficult last year with the Eagles

The ending was tough for Zach Ertz.

Even though he was a Super Bowl champion and one of the 10 best tight ends in NFL history, he knew the Eagles wouldn’t re-sign him. Dallas Guedert would have gotten the big contract and Erts would have ended up elsewhere. But he also knew that the eagles would not trade him so that the return would be fair.

So he was stuck here.

Ertz, a future Eagles Hall of Famer, went to 2021 training camp at the NovaCare Complex in an incredibly awkward position. It was basically a lame duck narrow end just waiting to be traded.

“The past 18 months in Philly haven’t been the easiest,” Ertz said Monday. “Obviously, there was a lot going on behind the scenes, a lot of people don’t know about it. But at the same time, I loved all my time in Philadelphia.

“I will never have a bad memory of my time there, and a lot of it goes back to guys like Kelsey, Lynn, BJ, Fletch, guys I spent eight or nine years with, we had some good years and we had some great years, especially those (in 2017)”.

Ertz didn’t want to explain why his last year and a half had been difficult, but it’s no secret that he was offended by offering the Eagles’ final decade before talks broke down in the spring of 2020 — less than $11 million a year when it was looking for a fair market value, somewhere. In the range of 14 to 15 million dollars a year.

“I’ve said all along that I want to stay here for the long term,” he said at the time. “I don’t know for sure if that feeling is mutual.”

But despite it all, Erts was still here when he started last year, and he said on Monday that one of the things that made the difficult situation bearable was the way Nick Ciriani – then an unproven junior coach – handled it.

“Nick really enjoyed it,” said Erts of Cards training facility in Tempe, Arizona. “Obviously, he put him and I in a tough spot, and I think we really got the most out of it.

“I got to know him so well, I think he did his best to make me comfortable in everything I was doing that summer.

“The thing I really liked about Nick is how focused he is on details. We used to watch a movie about practice, a couple playing every day, and if you had a bad actor your number would come up on screen, and I absolutely hated it when I saw 86 on screen, and it motivated me in every way. Once I went in the training field to make sure my negative wasn’t in a negative light.

“So there were little things like that. I felt he was doing a really good job with the guys, communicating with the players (and) I have a lot of respect for coach Siriani.”

Despite his deteriorating relationship with the front office, Ertz was a professional until his last day as an eagle.

He picked up 18 passes for 189 yards and two TDs in six games with the Eagles last year before being traded in mid-October to Tay Gowan Cards – who is now on the Vikings coaching squad – and a fifth-round pick that the Eagles eventually traded to the Jaguars In two sixth-round picks, one they traded and one they used to craft a Grant Calcaterra tight end.

Ertz finished his career with the Eagles with 579 receptions, just ten times less than the 589 franchise record set by Hall of Famer Harold Carmichael from 1971 through 1983.

Now in his first full year in Arizona, Ertz is off to a fast start with 22 catches—the third most NFL tight finish so far this year. He will face his former team for the first time on Sunday when the Eagles face 4-0 cards 2-2 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Ertz still has strong connections to Philadelphia. His mother still lives here, his brother goes to Temple and his wife Drexel attends, and Ertz and his wife Julie continue to work toward the opening of the House of Hope early next year, a renovated home in Hunting Park that will become a safe haven for a youth district and center for education, arts, sports, and extension.

“We are really excited about what we are doing with the House of Hope,” Ertz said. “This is something that has been in our hearts for years, trying to make a lasting impact in society. …

“We wanted this to be a great space that the kids could go to after school for tutoring, there would be a community kitchen there as well, and financial literacy courses would be taught – we just wanted it to be a place the kids could look forward to going every day.”

Ertz now has 657 functional receivers, the 9th most in history with a narrow end. With six more, he would pass Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome and move up to eighth.

If he continues at this rate, he will have a very good chance of joining Hall of Famers Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe and future Hall of Famers Jason Whitten and Antonio Gates in the 800 catch club. Travis Kelsey is on his way there, too.

Although Ertz is now an Arizona Cardinal, he said all of his memories of Philadelphia are positive.

“I stayed there for 8 and a half years, basically nine years, and it really felt like we grew up there,” he said.

“Julie and I, we came there as kids of 22 and gave it our all for the city and felt love and affection exchange every day and just felt such a connection with fans and the community, you can’t put into words what that city means to us today.”

“She will always have a special place in our hearts, even though we are in Arizona now.”

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