It looked weird. There’s no other way to put it.
There was Zach Ertz on Wednesday in Glendale, Arizona, decked out in red gear. He talked about getting the chance to play with Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins, joining a Cardinals team with a perfect record and finding a place to live in a brand new city.
Meanwhile, a couple thousand miles away in Philadelphia, his Eagles teammates were talking about how much they already miss him.
“Man, I was gutted, but this is the nature of the business,” Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata said. “And you kinda get used to it but you don’t get used to it. I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go and it breaks my heart every time somebody leaves. And with Zach, it broke my heart.”
To be fair, it broke Zach’s heart too. There were plenty of tears shed in his farewell press conference on Friday. And then there was the full-page thank you ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer this week.
But as the dust settles on the trade, Ertz and the Eagles have to go their separate ways. The Eagles will look to avoid a 2-5 start when they face the Raiders in Las Vegas on Sunday. And Ertz and the Cardinals will look to keep their perfect season alive at home against the Texans.
It still feels weird. But this is the NFL. And it’s time for both sides to move on.
As tough as it might have been for Ertz, he began to move on quickly. Even though he wasn’t eligible to play this past Sunday, he still boarded the Cardinals’ team flight to Cleveland and sat next to his new quarterback Murray.
“I walked on the plane, got my seating assignment and we happened to be sitting right next to each other,” Ertz said to reporters in Arizona. “It was probably the higher ups. I don’t think it was on accident.”
Since then, Ertz and Murray have become fast friends. Ertz wanted to make sure he connected with his new quarterback because he said the best QB-TE relationships he’s been a part of extended off the field.
Back in Philly, the Eagles are moving forward with Dallas Goedert as their No. 1 tight end whenever he’s taken off the COVID-19 list. While Ertz’s new quarterback is in the race to win the MVP award, his old quarterback, Jalen Hurts, is still trying to find his footing in the NFL.
He’ll have to do that without No. 86.
“Zach Ertz has been a very special player for the city,” Hurts said. “Done a lot of special things here, obviously, being a multiple time Pro Bowler and winning a Super Bowl here. I have so much respect for him. I wish him the best in his future. I’ve got a lot of love for Zach.”
Ertz on Friday called Philadelphia his home but he won’t be living here for a while. For now, Ertz and his wife Julie are staying with Cardinals’ offensive lineman Justin Pugh and his fiancée in Arizona until the Ertz family can find their own place.
Ertz has known Pugh for a long time — they were both drafted in 2013 — but Pugh is one of just a few friends Ertz already had on his new team. Ertz knew J.J. Watt some because Julie Ertz and Watt’s wife, Kealia, are professional soccer teammates. But Ertz’s closest friend on the team is former Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks. The two have been tight for a long time. Ertz was even in Hicks’ wedding and Zach and Julie spent time in Arizona with Hicks rehabbing this offseason.
On Tuesday night, Ertz took a brief break from studying his new playbook to go out to dinner with Hicks, who was apparently recruiting Ertz hard.
As for the rest of his new teammates, Ertz is working to get to know them after leaving behind plenty of guys he’s known for a very long time.
“Six years ago I came here and that was one guy that I looked to and said, ‘Hey, I want you to get me better and I want to make you better,’” Rodney McLeod said. “I’m gonna miss that and everything that he’s done outside of the game of football for the City of Philadelphia, him as a friend, going to bible studies with him, there’s a lot of memories that you develop.”
With Ertz’s departure, there are just a handful of Eagles left from the Super Bowl season in 2017.
“It sucks,” Fletcher Cox said. “But you gotta know it’s a business. ... I talked to him, he’s smiling. I FaceTimed him, he’s smiling. That’s all you can ask for the guy. I know he’ll be missed. He’s done a lot for this organization, for this city. He was my teammates since he got here, nine years. Really happy for him. It’ll probably be strange seeing him in a different color jersey but I’m just happy for him.”
Yeah, Fletch. It’s weird.
With the Cardinals, he’ll join a high-powered offense, but Ertz isn’t worried about how many balls come his way. In an offense with Hopkins, A.J. Green and Christian Kirk, sometimes the ball won’t come his way. That’s not what Ertz cares about.
“For me, all that matters is winning football games,” Ertz said. “… The most fun thing that I’ve been a part of is winning a Super Bowl.”
In eight-plus seasons in Philadelphia, Ertz piled up huge numbers and finished just 11 catches shy of breaking Harold Carmichael’s Eagles record. He also caught the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl LII. There’s no question that Ertz is an all-time great in Philly.
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman on Friday talked about the day that Ertz will be welcomed back as an Eagles Hall of Famer. And it seems pretty clear that Ertz’s legacy will be seen through a green lens.
But on Wednesday, Ertz was asked what happens if he wins a couple Super Bowls in Arizona.
“I’m just focusing right now on finishing the season as best as I can,” Ertz said. “Obviously, we got a great opportunity here. I’ll always love my time in Philadelphia.”
Good answer, Zach.
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