2022 hasn’t gone how Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz expected after inking a contract extension this past offseason.
While Ertz was in his usual form for a good part of the season, leading the team’s pass catchers in touchdowns and providing Kyler Murray a failsafe in the middle of the field, the offense as a whole was nowhere near up to par. Inconsistencies and injury woes along with the outside chatter they bring have been constants this season.
Still, Ertz was a clear bright spot in an otherwise disappointing year.
That was until the tight end went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 10. The damage was to both his MCL and ACL. Despite being a 10-year NFL veteran, the injury was a path he hadn’t walked.
“It was very tough,” Ertz speaking for the first time since his injury said Thursday. “I never had a season where the abruptness was just, ‘You’re done,’ that season is done. I felt like I personally was playing really good football.
“It was tough for me to not translate it into the wins that we were all expecting. But for me mentally, I think it’s just tough. You’re part of the team, you’re part of the grind every day, you’re part of the solution every day and then to just have the season kind of stop. It was tough.”
Initially, the thought was Ertz had only messed up his MCL. The injury was clearly something the tight end did not want to deal with, but there was an outside chance he avoided anything serious and could even return in 2022.
But after discovering the ACL was partially torn and wouldn’t have lasted the remainder of the season, potentially adding to Ertz’s recovery time, he made the decision to get surgery on both areas of his knee.
It was a difficult decision for Ertz to turn the page prematurely on the season due to the injury, but it’s one he’s glad he made.
“It was tough for a week and then once I was able to get surgery and kind of formulate a plan to go forward it was, ‘All right, let’s attack this thing now’ and that’s all I’ve been focusing on ever since is to be the best player I can be going into next year and the best version of myself. I’ve learned a lot obviously about myself over the past month, but (my son Madden) helped a lot to get me through it.”
As for a recovery timeline? Ertz is focused on being back in the fold by Week 1 while also understanding the ups and downs that can come with rehabbing.
But while Ertz may be done for the year when it comes to reeling in passes and scoring touchdowns, the tight end still has a knack for contributing.
It just takes on a different form.
In addition to learning more about himself as he bounces back from injury, the tight end also found out he was named the Cardinals’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in just his second season with the team for all the work the Ertz Family Foundation puts in on the regular in both Arizona and Philadelphia.
“I think it just speaks to how great this organization has been to us,” Ertz said. “From the minute I walked into the doors, I kind of felt something special not only within the team but from top down and the whole culture. … It truly, truly means a lot to me.
“I said it since I got out here, this is the place where I want to retire. I still very much feel that way. A lot of it is down to the people in this building. It is special for sure.”
It’s an honor the tight end does not take lightly and one that really goes back to two things: Ertz’s faith and the impression his mother Lisa instilled in him from a young age.
In Arizona, Ertz’s foundation has worked to provide meals to those in need. After donating 150,000 meals to local food banks last season, the tight end up the number to a pledged 500,000 more in 2022.
While he resides in Arizona now, Ertz still gives back to those needing it most in Philadelphia, renovating a church that will serve as a safe haven called “House of Hope.” It will provide kids with financial literacy course, tutoring opportunities, a Wi-Fi cafe and a kitchen to help keep kids engaged and off the streets.
And even though Ertz and his foundation do the majority of the giving back, that’s not to say the off-the-field work hasn’t left a lasting impact on the tight end and the rest of his family.
“It was … just really hard seeing somebody, especially your husband in a hard place,” Julie Ertz said. “You want to be able to perform and play. I have a front row seat to see all of his hard work.
“I know his heart and all the stuff that he’s done kind of behind the scenes and being able to work with the foundation a ton — especially around COVID time — and watching him use his platform is inspiring to me and I know our family as well. We’re just beyond honored that the Cardinals selected the Ertz Family Foundation and saw that it’s making an impact.”