ZACH ERTZ:** First and foremost, I want to thank Howie [executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman] and Mr. Lurie [Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie]. They had faith in me three years ago to bring me to Philadelphia and I am extremely thankful for that and I am extremely thankful for them allowing me to be here for six more years. Secondly, I'd like to thank my family. They have been with me through the highs and the lows and I definitely would not be here without all of their continued support throughout the years. I'd also like to thank all of my mentors, my coaches, all the trainers here in Philadelphia and back at Stanford, my friends and my teammates. One of the things that I pride myself on is being a great teammate and never letting my teammates down, and all of those guys have continued to push me in ways [that have helped me] reach levels that I didn't think I could reach. Lastly, to the fans of Philadelphia, we haven't brought a Super Bowl home to Philadelphia yet. But I'm not going to rest until we do and we win as many as we possibly can here. They are the best fans in the world and they push us each and every day to be the best that we can be. With that being said, any questions?
Q. Why now?
ZACH ERTZ: Ultimately, this is the best deal at the right time that made sense for me. I've never played the game for money. I pride myself on being the best tight end that I can possibly be and I think this deal signifies that. I am really happy with the deal; my agent did an unbelievable job. But at the same time, I just wanted to be in Philadelphia, and whatever price that took, that's what I wanted to do. And I want to be here for a long time. I want to be here for my entire career and that's one of the main *reasons. *
Q. When did they first approach you about an extension?
ZACH ERTZ: Right after the season ended. A few days after [the season ended], they mentioned that they were going to reach out to my agent to see if we could get a deal done. I thought it would take longer, but ultimately it went pretty quick.
Q. Why do you want to be here? What do you like about this team, this city and this market?
ZACH ERTZ: One of the things when I look over all of the athletes that I idolize, per se – [Los Angeles Lakers Forward-Guard] Kobe Bryant and [Dallas Cowboys TE] Jason Witten are two of the athletes that I have looked up to since I was a young kid and those two guys stayed in their cities throughout their entire careers. That's the kind of legacy that I want to leave here in Philadelphia. When people think of great tight ends in Philly, I want to be the guy that they think of. I look at Dawkins [former Eagles S Brian Dawkins], I look at Donovan [former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb], I look at Westbrook [former Eagles RB Brian Westbrook], and these guys have left lasting legacies in this city. Those are the guys that I want to be mentioned with.
Q. Sometimes numbers obviously generate whatever you are going to get in a contract. How much do you think that former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly's offense created some really good numbers for you to be in this situation here today?
ZACH ERTZ: Yeah, I mean numbers are one thing, but I also think Chip pushed me in ways that aren't reflected in numbers. I think my blocking has progressed in these three years to levels that I probably wouldn't have reached if it weren't for him and Coach Peelle [Eagles tight ends coach Justin Peelle]. Those guys have pushed me to be a player that I definitely wasn't when I first came into the league, both on the field and off the field. I owe a lot of my success and a lot of my future success to Coach Kelly.
Q. Do you view signing this deal as somewhat of an endorsement of Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and his system? Have you had a chance to speak with him?
ZACH ERTZ: Yeah, I'm excited to be in this system. I talked to Doug briefly today: it was primarily about Philadelphia and being back in this city. But yeah, I am extremely excited to be in his offense. I think the things that he and Coach Reid [Chiefs head coach Andy Reid] have done with tight ends in the past is something that I am really looking forward to.
Q. What are your first impressions of Doug and how things will be different? He's obviously such a different personality than Chip.
ZACH ERTZ: Like I said, I talked to him for five minutes, but he seemed very smart and very intelligent. He is a former quarterback, so I'm hoping he likes to throw the ball [joking]. But at the same time, he is going to do whatever it takes to win the game and that's something that I endorse, obviously.
Q. How big is it to have Justin Peelle back on the staff?
ZACH ERTZ: I think it's huge. I'm extremely glad that Coach Peelle is back. My game has grown in huge strides over the past few years and he has pushed me to be a better player. I owe a lot of this to him.
*Q. Was it a priority for you to get an extension done this offseason or did you consider spending a year building up your numbers and seeing what the market had to offer? *
ZACH ERTZ: That was definitely an option that I looked into. Like I said, I don't play the game for financial success. Ultimately, I'm going to play the game to be the best player that I can be. The money -- I never looked at it as something that I needed to get done this offseason. I'm very frugal off the field and I don't really spend, so the money has never been something that I've paid attention to. I don't really care about the money, honestly. All I care about is winning football games, and this commitment that the Eagles have placed in me is something that I take a lot of pride in.
Q: Have you had a chance to talk to QB Sam Bradford at all since the hiring of Doug Pederson or after the season?
ZACH ERTZ: Yeah. I think he's excited. He wants to be in Philadelphia. Whether he's back here or not, that's none of my business, honestly. He's going to do what's best for him and the Eagles are going to do what's best for us. But at the end of the day, I think he does want to be here.
Q: Did that come up at all when you were talking with Doug?
ZACH ERTZ: Yeah. Who the quarterback is – I've played for five quarterbacks now in three years, which seems like a lot, and I want to play with Sam. Ultimately, that's not my decision. But I think the chemistry that I developed with Sam and [WR] Jordan [Matthews] developed with Sam, some of the other guys developed, I think it goes a long way. I think you guys saw the success first hand with Donovan [McNabb]. He was a staple on this team for a long time and when you're able to have that continuity, I think it goes a long way.
Q: This contract puts you in the category of the top five tight ends. Is that company that you value? Is that something that is important to you, being among those guys?
ZACH ERTZ: I mean, my goal definitely isn't to be top five; it's to be the best in the league. That's something that I'm going to take pride in [trying] to accomplish. I don't play this game to be an average tight end. I play this game to be the best tight end I can possibly be and win as many football games as I possibly can. And I'm going to push myself to accomplish those goals over the next five years.
Q: Have you talked to TE Brent Celek? If not him, have you talked to any of your other teammates since you signed this deal?
ZACH ERTZ: Briefly. I'm going to reach out to them more and more. They reached out to me on social media and via text. They mean the world to me. I wouldn't be here without Jordan Matthews pushing me each and every day during the offseason. Brent Celek has been unbelievable. I owe a lot of this deal to him, because of the player that I'm able to emulate each and every day during practice. The way he approaches the game both on and off the field is something that I never take for granted.
Q: Do any of your teammates responses stick out to you?
ZACH ERTZ: Everyone's just really happy for me. They know the work [that I've done] on the field that has kind of put me in this situation and everyone's just really happy for me.
Q: I think your deal now is the longest of any player on the team. Is being a face of this franchise or at least one of them something that you think about?
ZACH ERTZ: Growing up, I never would have expected to be the face of a franchise. But at the same time, I think the work that I've put in has put me in this situation. I'm not going to be satisfied. Being the face of the Philadelphia [Eagles], I think it comes with a lot of responsibility. This franchise has been successful for a lot of years and I want to be successful for a lot of years. I think I'm going to put pressure on myself and my teammates to be the best players that they can be. I think everyone's excited for the next couple of years.
Q: Guys like Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski and Panthers TE Greg Olsen, you've spoken in the past about how you want to be in that category. What's it going to take to get from where you are to where they are?
ZACH ERTZ: I'm never going to be satisfied with where I am as a player, whether it's the receiving or blocking aspect of it. I think I'm going to continue to push myself to improve each and every one of those aspects, and then opportunities as well. I'm really excited to work with Coach Pederson, a new mind and new voice, and I think that, hopefully, that's going to take me a long way. But at the same time, I think I have to be more consistent as well. Some of that falls on me and I'm going to work every day to get it done.
Q: During the course of working on this deal, did you get the sense from the front office that they'd like to do some other second contracts with younger players?
ZACH ERTZ: I think a lot of people want a lot of guys back. Obviously, there's a salary cap for a reason, but I hope a lot of guys get done this offseason as well. I mean, a lot of guys have put in a lot of great work and you want to see all of that hard work rewarded.
Q: It was a pretty tumultuous and ultimately disappointing season. How have you processed everything that went down and why the organization might have decided that it wasn't going to work with Chip Kelly? How do you look back on the season and say, 'This is where this went wrong?'
ZACH ERTZ: There's two things that kind of stick out on offense. I can't really speak about the defense. The penalties, the pre-snap penalties come down to a lack of focus and a lack of detail-orientation, I think. And then sometimes we just didn't execute. When you're facing second-and-12, second-and-15, it's very tough to be successful in this league and when you're playing behind the sticks, it's even tougher and those are kind of things that have stuck out to me.
Q: Do you feel like the amount of pre-snap penalties was the result of not being able to make adjustments?
ZACH ERTZ: No. It's just lack of focus on the players and that responsibility fell on us and some other people paid the price for that.
Q: After the way you and Sam Bradford clicked in the last couple months of the season, how big would it be to have him back and not have to start over with a new quarterback?
ZACH ERTZ: I would love that. I know a lot of guys would love to have Sam back. Jordan and I in particular were rewarded with Sam playing quarterback. At the same time, we're very confident in Doug and Howie and Mr. Lurie to decide who is going to be the best person to play quarterback.
Q: How much growth do you have left? How far are you from being the player that you think you can be?
ZACH ERTZ: I don't know if you can put a percentage on it, per se. I don't think I'm satisfied with where I am now. I don't think I'm ever going to be satisfied with it. Jason Witten isn't satisfied and he's going to go down as one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. I'm always going to work through the next 10 years, hopefully, of my career and I'm really excited for it.
Q: How much did the injury that you sustained before the season set you back and how long did it take to recover?
ZACH ERTZ: I think, if I'm being honest, it hurt me. Especially the first four games of the year. After that I kind of started to feel more like myself. I think the coaches started to feel more confident that I was back to where I was. I think the first few games they weren't really sure how I was going to be each and every game, so the offense kind of focused on other players at that point. I think as the season progressed, I was back to my old self and they trusted me to go out there and execute.
Q: People stand up there and talk about Super Bowls or a Super Bowl for this team. What do you think it's going to take? What is it going to take for this team to get there?
ZACH ERTZ: Let's look at the Panthers. They were 7-8-1 last year and now they're 15-1 and they're going to be playing in two weeks in Santa Clara. A lot of stuff has to go right. We have to build from the ground up. I want to be here for the next five years and I want to win Super Bowls here. I want other guys to be here. It's going to start with making sure we have some guys back as well – some of the other young guys as well that we can build around. Then we have to find the right guys that can go with us, per se.
Q: What are your offseason plans?
ZACH ERTZ: I'm going to start working hard again in about a week. You have to take some time off, especially after the season that I have endured, to kind of get the body right. I'm feeling really good right now. I've been doing yoga the past week and I'm going to do it again this week. On the 1st of February, I'm going to be back to work improving on my game.
Q: Are you going to be working here or at Stanford University?
ZACH ERTZ: I'll be in California for the next couple of weeks and then I'll be back here in Philadelphia.
Q: How much did your personal performance towards the end of the season boost your confidence as far as going forward and getting closer to your goal of being one of the best tight ends in the NFL?
ZACH ERTZ: The last four weeks were great, but at the same time, that's what I expect out of myself each and every week. Those eight-catch games are what I expect out of myself. It's nothing out of the ordinary in my eyes. The thing that did come with those four weeks is we were 2-2 and that kind of stuck out to me. I go for wins, I don't go for the stats. That's all I care about.
Q: Will you do any more Mixed Martial Arts training this offseason?
ZACH ERTZ: Yeah, I'm going to do whatever it takes to be successful. I think that worked for me last year, so maybe once or twice I'll do that.
Q: Did the MMA training last offseason have anything to do with your sports hernia injury?
ZACH ERTZ: No, I was battling that for a long time. People said I should have taken more time off, but I can't have any regret now. What happened, happened and I'm just focusing on being the best player I can be.