TEMPE, Ariz. — As Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz prepares to face the visiting Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, he said the emotion of facing his former team for the first time hasn’t sunk in yet.
“It’s been a lot of just viewing them for the next opponent,” Ertz said Thursday.
When he watches the film, he sees a lot of familiar faces — Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, to name a few. Ertz, who played for the Eagles for almost 8½ seasons, helping them win Super Bowl LII, said they’ve become more than teammates at this point in their careers.
“It becomes more of a relationship, care about them and their family,” Ertz said. “So, from that perspective, it’s going to be good to see those guys. But, on the field, it’s going to be me versus their defense. It’s not going to be Zach versus the Eagles. We just got to go out there and play a really good football game.”
When Ertz lines up against the Eagles on Sunday, he’ll have played against every team in the NFL, a feat that eluded him because of his longevity in Philadelphia. He understands they’ll know the book on him — but he’ll also know the book on them.
“They know me well,” he said. “I know them well from a personnel standpoint. Obviously, some of the pieces are a little different. I was there for six weeks plus a training camp last year, so I know schematically what they’re trying to do, what their points of emphasis are.”
Ertz said he isn’t necessarily glad his first time facing his former team isn’t in Philadelphia. He thinks State Farm Stadium will be full of Eagles fans, regardless.
“It doesn’t matter where the game is,” he said. “It could be played in the parking lot, I’d be looking forward to the game either way.”
Before a contentious 2021 offseason in which Ertz and the Eagles couldn’t agree on a contract extension, he said he believed he would play in Philadelphia for his entire career. He also thought he would play with former Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz “for a long time,” he said Thursday.
However, Ertz was traded to the Cardinals — a team he said he had targeted as a potential destination in part because of quarterback Kyler Murray — on Oct. 15, 2021, ending his tenure in Philadelphia in his ninth season.
“You spend a long time in one place, you get comfortable, you get a routine,” he said. “And I loved playing there, obviously. I think everyone knows that. But I was excited for the next challenge. When I kind of came to grips with that it wasn’t a real possibility, it was, ‘OK, let’s figure out what situations would be great for me,’ and Arizona was at the top of the list and this was even before the start of last year.
“And, so, for me, I’m ecstatic that I got traded here. My family is ecstatic that we got traded here. And, so, I’m just fortunate that these guys believed in me, and it’s not looking back on this game like, ‘Hey, Philly didn’t believe in me anymore.’ It’s more, ‘Hey, the Cardinals believed in me a ton and they came out and traded for me.’ And, so, that’s what I try and go out there each and every time I step on the field, it’s kind of reciprocate that belief that they had in me.”