Zach Ertz ended eight months of silence, eight months of drama, eight months of rumors and eight months of animosity with one simple, elegant statement.
“This is the place I want to be,” Ertz said Wednesday afternoon. “This is the place I want to retire.”
Ertz, speaking with the media for the first time since January, said he’s put all the ill will between himself and the Eagles behind him and is excited to begin his ninth season in an Eagles uniform in 11 days.
In a 15-minute chat, the all-time Eagles great said he’s moved on from the bitterness over an insulting contract offer, the non-stop offseason trade rumors, the speculation about his future and he’s focused now only on returning to Pro Bowl form.
“There’s been a lot that’s gone on this offseason and I’m here to put it in the past,” Ertz said. “I’m excited to be here. I told Julie (wife and soccer Olympian) the other day and I told my pastor in Cherry Hill, this is the most fun I’ve had coming to work in a long time, these past four weeks. Being with this new coaching staff, being with this young team, some of the vets like myself, (Jason) Kelce, Lane (Johnson) … it’s been a lot of fun coming to work each and every day.
“I’m moving on frtom everything that happened this offseason. There have been apologies. There have been things that we’ve mended. And ultimately, I’m here, I’m excited to be here and I’m excited to be a leader of this football team.”
Ertz ranks 12th in NFL history among tight ends with 561 receptions, but last year was a miserable season for everybody on the Eagles’ offense and Ertz was not immune. He had the worst season of his career and revealed Wednesday that the ankle injury he suffered last year against the Ravens in Week 6 required offseason surgery that left him on crutches for two weeks, a walking cast for two weeks and a boot for a month.
Along with his physical health came a spiritual awakening that came from studying the Bible. It allowed him to move past all the bitterness and come to terms with the fact that the Eagles weren’t going to trade him or release him.
“Things change,” he said. “I mean things do change. Julie and I pick a word for the year each and every year going into the year and in December that word was ‘trust,’ and it was based on the scripture Proverbs 3:5, which says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.’ And while there have been times, that I was like, ‘Man, what is going on? What is going on?’’ ultimately I’ve always fallen back on that and that scripture has kept me with a great mindset this entire offseason.”
There was a point this offseason where it seemed unlikely Ertz would be back in Philly this fall. But give credit to both sides for keeping the lines of communication open and figuring out a way to make this work.
Simply put, the Eagles are a better football team with Ertz here.
Let’s not lose site of the fact that remaining with the Eagles guarantees Ertz $8.5 million this year, and even if he felt insulted by the Eagles’ contract offers last offseason, he’s still the 6th-highest-paid tight end in the league.
Did the Eagles treat him fairly?
“At the end of the day, it’s a moot point,” he said. “This organization has believed in me not only the first eight years of my career but they believed in me more so than anybody else did in the league. They were standing firm to what they believed was fair and I can’t fault them for that.
“They know how I feel about this city. I truly love being here. And what’s happened in the past is in the past. I’m not thinking about it. For me and my faith, it’s all about forgiveness, forgiveness, and who am I not to extend a forgiving arm with everything I believe in my faith?
“I’m here now. The offseason is over. This is all about the Philadelphia Eagles and being the best player I can be for this team and this city.”
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