Nobody can ever question Zach Ertz’s toughness.
They really shouldn’t have before Sunday. But after this? Never again.
Just two weeks after suffering broken ribs, rib cartilage damage and a lacerated kidney, there was Ertz running around Sunday, doing everything in his power to help the Eagles advance in the playoffs.
They didn’t quite get it done, but Ertz’s performance will go down in Philly sports history as one of the gutsiest we’ve ever seen.
I couldn’t look at myself or my teammates in the eye, knowing everything they have sacrificed over the months, if I was able to go and didn’t go,” Ertz said. “As long as everyone was good with it from a health standpoint, I wasn’t going to miss the game. … I wanted to play for this city. I take a lot of pride in playing for my teammates.”
Ertz took a ferocious shot early in the Eagles’ win over the Cowboys at the Linc on Dec. 22. He returned to the game in the second half and caught four passes.
He didn’t realize the full extent of the injury until after the game.
I went to the bathroom and there was some blood in the urine, so the medical staff here rushed me to the hospital, where it was determined that I had a kidney injury. Stayed at the hospital for about two hours that night, so I went home. I did additional tests Monday morning that determined the severity and we found out there were two non-displaced rib fractures, a rib cartilage fracture and obviously the kidney injury.”
The Eagles beat the Giants and clinched the NFC East title while Ertz watched from the sidelines.
“It killed me,” he said. “If it was just the rib injury I would have been able to go, but they would not let me go.”
This past Saturday, Ertz met at the NovaCare Complex with multiple independent specialists, who examined his most recent set of scans and cleared him.
“The kidney had healed rapidly, remarkably,” he said.
It was one thing to miss a regular-season game. If there were any possible way for him to be out there Sunday for the Seahawks, Ertz was going to do it.
Even if it took a miracle.
“It was tough,” Ertz said. “Monday, after the Cowboys game, I couldn’t get out of bed on my own. I knew everything this team has gone through the past six months (from) where we started last April. I always get the best cover guys. The defense always has to account for me and so I knew if I could be out there, even if I wasn’t 100 percent, that the defense has to treat me like I am 100 percent.”
Understandably, Ertz wasn’t quite himself, but he did have a 32-yard catch-and-run from Josh McCown on the first play of the third quarter – it was actually his longest catch since a 34-yarder in Tampa in Week 2 of last year - and he added a 12-yarder in the fourth quarter.
The two catches gave him 33 in his postseason career, tied with Brian Westbrook for 3rd-most in Eagles history – behind Chad Lewis (38) and current Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley (35).
Ertz’s presence definitely opened things up for Dallas Goedert, who led the Eagles with 7-for-73. So 117 of the Eagles 177 receiving yards came from their two tight ends.
Why put yourself through this?
“It’s football in Week 18,” Ertz said. “Obviously, it’s a little more extreme, what I was going through. All of the pads were very uncomfortable. By the end of the game, it didn’t feel very good. Just trying to give everything I have for the team because I knew all of the guys were trying to do the same for me.”
Ertz and his teammates weren’t able to will the undermanned Eagles past the Seahawks Sunday, but you’d like to think that the way this team performed down the stretch – minus most of the offense and a good chunk of the defense – earned them some respect.
They lost. But it’s hard to imagine Ertz having any more to give and it’s hard to imagine this team having any more to give.
“This team embodies this city,” he said. “It’s a resilient city, a tough city, and I feel like the character of this team the past couple of years has been a reflection of this city. We do everything we can to try and win on Sundays and sometimes we just come up a little short. Today we had chances to make plays and we just didn’t make enough of them.”
How do you not root for this guy?
Ertz is an all-time great Eagle and if you weren’t sure about it before, you have to be now.
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