Zach Ertz is a lot of things, as we've gotten to know him these last seven football seasons. He has great natural gifts and has accentuated them with his hard work and dedication to become the greatest tight end in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles and one of the best in the NFL. He has made three consecutive Pro Bowls. He set an NFL single-season record for tight ends with 116 receptions (also a franchise record regardless of position) last season and followed that up with perhaps an even better 2019, even though his statistics aren't quite at that record-setting level.
Ertz has become a solid in-line blocker and a do-the-dirty-work kind of guy playing a position that is, in today's game, more in tune with what wide receivers do than what offensive linemen do. He's a team-first man all the way, and he has represented himself and his family and the Eagles organization in a first-class manner on and off the field for his entire career.
Add to the list of what Zach Ertz is this: He's a tough, tough man.
On the Eagles' first offensive drive on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, Ertz went up high for a Carson Wentz pass and took a shot to the ribs from Dallas safety Xavier Woods. It was a clean hit, a football play, and it hurt.
Oh boy, did it hurt.
Ertz came off the field and went into the locker room for evaluation and, trust me, there was concern on the Eagles' sidelines about Ertz's ability to return.
With Ertz absent, the Eagles finished that opening drive with a field goal and then came back on the next possession with a touchdown, and then had some troubles moving the football. Without Ertz on the field, the Cowboys could better concentrate their efforts on Dallas Goedert and Miles Sanders, and the Eagles did not score for the remainder of the half.
Ertz returned in the second half and he caught two passes during a 10-play touchdown drive that upped the Eagles' advantage to 17-6. He added two more receptions in the fourth quarter as the offense continued to move the football. Ertz ended up playing 59 snaps, 51 of which came after suffering the injury – "there is a rib that has been affected," head coach Doug Pederson said the day after the game. NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport said the Ertz suffered a fractured rib, but that report has not been officially confirmed by the Eagles. The team is taking more tests on Ertz and his availability for Sunday's game at the Giants is not known at this time.
The point here is this: Ertz is more than just a pass catcher and a statistics-maker. He's a tough guy who is an all-around standout for the Eagles, and he showed incredible guts returning to play with a significant rib injury on Sunday. Not every player would have done what Ertz did, and yet there was nothing more important to him than being out there for his team in a must-win game that the Eagles won.
In the next season or so, if everything goes according to plan, Ertz will blow past Harold Carmichael for the franchise lead in career receptions – Ertz, with 525 catches, trails Carmichael (589) by 64 – and he will be celebrated for that impressive accomplishment. There is a whole lot more to Ertz than receptions and yards and touchdowns. He showed again on Sunday what the game – and what the Philadelphia Eagles – mean to him.