Zach Ertz was traded to the Arizona Cardinals on Friday but he didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye.
So shortly after the Eagles announced the trade, Ertz hopped on a Zoom call with a bunch of Eagles reporters and spoke through tears about his time in Philadelphia, his affinity for the city and his future in Arizona.
It’s rare for an outgoing athlete to hold a press conference. But Ertz is a rare athlete in Philadelphia history.
Here is a full transcript of Ertz’s 17-minute final press conference with Philly reporters:
“What’s up everyone. Obviously emotional day, an emotional week. I’m going to try not to cry in this one like last January, when I thought it was my last one. What a journey it’s been. What an amazing journey, what an amazing eight plus years, nine years here. Obviously, I’m extremely excited to be going to the Arizona Cardinals to play a team that’s rolling right now and just be able to add my skill set to that team. Ecstatic about that situation and just looking forward to going into that building and showing the type of player I am, the work ethic I am, with no expectation. Just want to win football games. But this is obviously a time of reflection. This amazing nine years here.
“One of the things that kind of irked me the past couple days is when this was coming about and people started to know about it, well, you know you’re going back home, you’re going back to California, Julie’s home. This is home. Philadelphia is home. And that was tough. Just to kind of articulate that to people that I love this place. I’ve said it all along. And it’s a great opportunity to be here and I loved it here. I did the best I could every day and I can leave knowing that, and this isn’t going to be the last you’ll see of me here in this city.
“Our foundation is still going to roll here. This is where we want to make an impact. We’re doing an amazing project called the House of Hope right in Hunting Park. It’s an old church that we’re completely revamping, turning it into a wi-fi café for kids after school. It’s going to be a church on Sunday and a wi-fi café. The goal is around $1.1, $1.2 million to be raised. We’re around $750,000. Julie and I donated $100 by ourselves, the foundation donated another $100, have amazing partnerships with Acme and Comcast so far, and that’s something I’m extremely excited about leaving here, is that building.
“Obviously, I’m emotional about it. I was crying in my locker last night for 30 minutes, and I felt bad because the guys didn’t really know but I couldn’t help it. But it was special. Last January against Washington there were no fans and so it was weird and I’m glad I didn’t end it like that last January. And it was special last night. Obviously, we didn’t win, which sucked, but it was fun. It was fun to do what I do out there. I felt like I played great. I was myself and I’m excited to go to Arizona. I’ll take a few questions. Obviously, this is extremely difficult, but I’ll do my best.”
At what point in your career did Philadelphia start to feel like home?
“That’s a great question. Obviously, coming from California, the first year was tough. We played against Detroit in a snowstorm and I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I can do this.’ California, you don’t even see snow where I lived. You had to seek out the snow if you wanted to see it. And I come out after pregame warmups and there’s a foot of snow on the ground and I can’t even run because I’m slipping all over the place, LeSean has amazing grip, he can do whatever he wants that day and I’m just by the heater. So that year was rough. I don’t think I called it home just yet. But I think probably after the third year when I knew I was going to be here for a while and we really knew that this was going to be a place that we wanted to continue to pour into and just the love that I felt each and every Sunday playing here, winning a Super Bowl here, doing everything we did off the field here. It’s just the people. That’s the toughest part. Leaving the people. Leaving the fans. I played with Jason Kelce for nine years. So that’s the toughest part.”
How do you think the past 9 or 10 months have enhanced your legacy?
“I don’t know. That’s for you guys to decide I guess. I loved this place. Obviously, I don’t regret the way me playing here the past six weeks and it’s been a lot of fun, when I said that in training camp, I was having a blast in training camp, I had a blast coming to work every day, obviously we didn’t win enough games in the next six weeks. Obviously, I wish I had played a little more at times or got the ball a little more at times, but to me all I care about is winning football games and we just didn’t do it enough in the first six weeks, and I think that’s all that matters in this city is winning football games. The standards are so high for a reason. The fans care so much and it’s tough for some people, but I loved it and that was the bottom line. I loved playing here. I didn’t care if I got booed. I didn’t care if I got said bad things on a Monday after a terrible game on Sunday because I knew I was going to be in here Monday early catching JUGS machines if I had a couple drops or working on blocking if I missed a block, and that’s all I cared about, was trying to get better and be the best player I could. The legacy stuff, that’s for you guys. I just know I did my best each and every day to be the best player I could and I could walk out of the door today obviously emotional but content that everything that we’ve done here.”
Through the ups and downs how were you able to understand that the fans just wanted you to be the best you can be and not take it as a negative?
“I think obviously when I was young, I think a lot of young players struggle with this. You’re told for so long how good you are. In high school coming out you’re typically a pretty good player, you’re a big-time recruit, you have college coaches telling you how good you are, you get to college, you’re not great early in your career, you get to the end of your college career, everyone’s telling you how great you are, and you kind of sort of expect it. In society today, I think a lot of people want to be told how good they are and it’s just not the case. It’s not reality. It’s OK to be told that you’re not playing great. It’s OK to be told that you need to be better and in reality no one should have to tell you that as a professional athlete. I could tell myself if I played well or if I didn’t play well. I could tell you exactly how the fans are going to react based on how I played. I know. So for me it’s just what it is. You can’t take it for more than what it is. These people love their team, they love the Eagles, they love their players. This city loves their players. And they want to see us succeed as much if not more than we want to succeed. And so for me, it’s what I loved about this place. People were honest. They’re blunt. They don’t care about you apologizing about a game on social media if you played poorly. They want to see you put in the work Monday through Saturday to get better for Sunday and for me that’s why I think I resonated in this city because all I knew was how to work hard and that’s why I love this place.”
If Dallas Goedert hadn’t gone on COVID-19 list, do you think the trade would have happened earlier?
“I cannot answer that what if. The fact of the matter is that he was on COVID (list). Being able to play my last game at home was special and I don’t know if it was a salary cap thing or whatever it is. The fact of the matter is I enjoyed my last game last night, knowing that I was not going to be here. I didn’t really talk about it to anyone during the week. I talked to Julie about it, talked to my agent about it. I just wanted to focus on the task at hand, which was trying to win a football game. For me, that’s all I’ve tried to do in my career. So I wasn’t going to let something that was in the future affect my preparation for the week. I can’t talk about what would have happened if Dallas wasn’t on COVID.”
The compensation appears to be similar as to what it was before the season. Why wasn’t the move made then? What was the explanation you received?
“I couldn’t control (that). I tried to articulate in the offseason how I felt about everything. And I’m not the one pulling the trades. I’m employee No. 86. I don’t know … hopefully it takes a little while for them to get another one in here. I just do the best I can. I don’t know what happened. I don’t regret anything about this offseason. I didn’t say anything, I just tried to get healthy and be the best that I could. I think playing last night, if you go back and watch everything, watch the game, not just the catches, I think I showed exactly who I am as a player last night. So I’m excited. I don’t regret anything that happened. I don’t regret that it didn’t happen before the season because this is a much better way to go out than Jan. 3 of last year. At the end of the day, we’re 11 catches away from the record but if you told me coming into the league that I would be second all-time possibly in this great organization’s history, that would have been an unbelievable achievement in my eyes. And who knows, maybe I’ll come back and get 12 catches and Harold (Carmichael) can go to No. 2. But I’ll let him have it for a few more years, I guess, maybe forever. It’s been fun.”
What will it mean to go into the Eagles Hall of Fame at some point?
“It’s an honor. This organization stands for so much. Not only as players but really in this community. It’s a representation of the blue collar work ethic that this city represents. It will be an honor one day to have that opportunity. Obviously, I think it just is a reflection of the way I approached things. I don’t think it’s necessarily, oqivoyly the results were there on Sundays, but I don’t think you show up 16 times a year and go into the Eagles Hall of Fame. You gotta show up each and every day. I loved to practice, I still love to practice. I was talking to a player who’s probably at the end and I asked him the other day, ‘Why do you want to go one more year?’ And he just said, ‘I just don’t want it to end how it ended last season’ or whatever. Then he asked my why you keep playing. I said, ‘Because I love the process.’ I love the process of going to work on a Wednesday morning, I love the process of going to training camp on a Thursday when I don’t feel like practicing, when my body’s telling me you really can’t practice today. But mentally preparing myself when things are going poorly because I know things are going to go poorly at some point in the season, to tell my mind to tell my body, hey, it’s time to go. So I love the process, I love this game and I think that’s what a Philadelphia Eagle is all about. Showing up all the time, doing your best, living with the results and then improving from there. Obviously, my goal is to be in the Hall of Fame and hopefully this move to Arizona will continue to help me on that. But it truly is an honor to do that and I can’t wait to come back and celebrate that one day with all you guys.”
What did it mean to catch a touchdown in your last game? And did you keep the ball?
“It was awesome. I think I spiked the ball so hard, I think it disappeared. It was surreal. I wanted to win the game obviously, but catching a touchdown on the first drive was fun and kind of just allowed me to play free the rest of the game and not really worry about anything else but trying to win the football game, which is what I always have done. But it was awesome to do that. This team’s got a lot of young talent. There’s a lot of good young players to build around. And I’m going to be the biggest fan from afar, obviously. Always going to be cheering for these guys. I’ve developed so many good relationships over the years, even these young guys who are just coming into the league, I feel like I truly go to know them and connect with them this year. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m going to be rooting from afar.
“Obviously, the foundation is going to keep doing what they’re doing. You guys can go to ErtzFamilyFoundation.org to check out some more information on the House of Hope. We’re partnering with a lot of great people. It’s going to be an amazing, amazing project for our city. Obviously, there’s an epidemic of gun violence right now in the city and we want to provide a safe space for these kids, give them a place to go to do their homework, get some food, feed them, give them some guidance. We’re partnering with Timoteo organization run by Pastor Rob Whitmire. Just because I’m not physically here does not mean I’m not going to be here continually.
“I’m so excited to join the Cardinals; they’re 5-0, got a big game against the Browns on Sunday. I’m looking forward to playing with Kyler (Murray) and DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green. And Jordan Hicks has been recruiting me all week, so it’s going to be good to see him. And I’ll tell him you guys all say hello, don’t worry. But I truly love it here, I truly appreciate all you guys. We’ve had some great times, we’ve had some low times. But I know I did my best and I think at the end of the day, I can live with that. Walking out of here, it’s going to be tough. But it’s been a blast and I’m appreciative to all you guys. And thanks for everything.”
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