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Why Zach Ertz ‘couldn’t turn down’ opportunity to play with Detroit Lions

Three-time Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz explained why an opportunity to join the Detroit Lions was too good to pass up.

Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Mike Christy/Getty Images

Zach Ertz has spent the past month being patient. After asking for his release from the Arizona Cardinals, the 11-year veteran tight end wanted to make sure he found the right situation before jumping into signing with a new team.

“I didn’t want to rush into anything,” Ertz told the media on Wednesday. “I had an injury earlier in the year, so I really was waiting to get fully healthy and feel like myself. I had the ACL last year, so it really was a great opportunity to get back fully healthy and feel back to myself. Obviously (I have) my wife at home, a little boy at home, so I wanted the right opportunity if I was going to leave at this point in the year.”

Ertz had been in talks with several teams over the past few weeks, including the Detroit Lions. And when Detroit—down two tight ends to injury—was ready to finally pull the trigger, Ertz was fully on board.

“Being here with these guys, learning from a head coach that was a tight end was something I couldn’t turn down,” Ertz said.

There were a lot of draws for Ertz to come to Detroit. Obviously, the appeal of a team in the NFC Championship game with a real chance at a ring was big one, but it was also an opportunity to reunite with his old tight ends coach Steve Heiden. On top of that, a chance to get closer to coach Dan Campbell, someone he admired from afar and immediately connected with over the phone earlier in the week.

“I love Dan. We had a 20-minute conversation yesterday, and so I’m excited to see him in front of the team, because he’s a guy I’ve had a lot of respect for over the years,” Ertz said. “He’s a guy that always gets his tight ends playing the right way. So I’m excited to be around him.”

At this point, it’s unclear what role Ertz—a three-time Pro Bowler—will have this week in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. Campbell indicated the team still needs to finalize their game plan and decide if activating Ertz, who is currently on the practice squad, is the right move.

“He understands we’re just going to gauge this and see where we’re at,” Campbell said. “So, he’ll be out here. But he’s – look, he’s played. Played at a high level. There’s things that he does well and it’s just a matter, is this the week to use him?”

Being the veteran that he is, Ertz gets that. He also knows that he’s not going to just walk into the building and be handed a job. So even with a limited amount of days before this team’s first Conference Championship in 32 years, Ertz is ready to put in the work.

“I don’t expect anything handed to me, obviously. I want to earn whatever reps I get,” Ertz said. “I’m not here to start any drama or cause any insubordination, per se. I’m just here to support the guys however I can, hopefully teach Sam or some of these young tight ends some things. And play to the best of my ability when my number’s called.”

In the meantime, Ertz is excited to be around rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, and hopes to help him develop his game even further.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know him better,” Ertz said. “Obviously everyone raves about him here, and rightfully so. He’s had a phenomenal rookie year. And even after seeing him injured and being able to play the following week, you know he’s tough. That looked a lot worse than it obviously was. I know it’s not pain-free being out there. I think the sky’s the limit for him.”

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.