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On the flight home from Cleveland – after newly-minted Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz had met the team there before the game with the Browns even though he wouldn’t be able to play – Ertz went to his seat and found himself sitting next to Kyler Murray.

It was perfect for the quarterback to be able to spend some time with his new target, to learn about each other not only professionally but personally. Ertz, nine years into his NFL career, finds the latter important with any relationship he has with a QB.

As for the fortuitous nature of the seat assignments, “it was probably the higher ups, or I don’t know if it was Maxx’s (Williams, injured tight end) seat or what, I don’t think it was on accident,” Ertz said with a chuckle.

As emotional as Ertz’s departure from the Philadelphia Eagles was, he comes to a team in which he already has a comfort level. His wife, Julie, plays professional soccer with Kealia Watt, the wife of new teammate J.J. Watt. He is friends with guard Justin Pugh, having come out in the draft together, and Ertz and his wife are staying in Pugh’s guest house for now. He spent the offseason rehabbing with Brett Fischer, who works with the team, spending time there with Dennis Gardeck.

Ertz is also tight with linebacker Jordan Hicks, his one-time road roommate with the Eagles. Ertz was in Hicks’ wedding, and Hicks recruited Ertz hard once it was clear Hicks was going to remain in Arizona and that Ertz was on the trade block. Because Ertz found out about the trade last Tuesday (it wasn’t announced until Friday morning), he actually called Hicks that day so Hicks could quickly find him a realtor.

“It was really a perfect fit for our locker room,” acting co-head coach Vance Joseph said.

On the field, Joseph said Ertz should “drop into Maxx’s role” in the offense. Before he was hurt, Williams had 16 catches for 191 yards and a touchdown in five games, while Ertz – in a secondary role with the Eagles – had 18 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns in six games.

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Tight end Zach Ertz (86) talks offense with QB Kyler Murray (right), interim playcaller Spencer Whipple (center) and backup QB Colt McCoy (left) during Wednesday’s practice.
Photo by Arizona Cardinals
Tight end Zach Ertz (86) talks offense with QB Kyler Murray (right), interim playcaller Spencer Whipple (center) and backup QB Colt McCoy (left) during Wednesday’s practice.

One of the main reasons Ertz wanted to join the team in Cleveland was to get a jump-start on learning the playbook and his relationship with Murray.

“I was exhausted but it was so worth it,” Ertz said. “I felt the energy, and you feel the leadership on this team.”

Murray said he had good conversation with Ertz on the plane, “talking offense, talking life.”

“It was one of those deals, you kind of click with the dude,” Murray said.

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The two of them spent extra one-on-one time during Wednesday’s special teams period at practice. Ertz noted he has been doing things a certain way for nine seasons, and he needs to adjust to Murray’s concepts – being on the same page come Sunday in a live game can be the difference between a catch and a turnover.

Ertz said he had no missed assignments in practice Wednesday, a good step in the playbook’s regard.

The trade, for a fifth-round pick and rookie cornerback Tay Gowan, could end up as just a rental. Ertz’s contract is up after the season. But getting a replacement for Williams – and help at tight end, even more important with Darrell Daniels dealing with a hamstring injury now – was important as the 6-0 Cardinals know what kind of opportunity they have to push for a potential Super Bowl run.

“It takes too much time, it’s too hard, it takes too many resources to not go for it every single year,” Joseph said. “You have to commend (GM) Steve (Keim), with losing Maxx, who was having a hell of a year. (Keim) found a way.”

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Ertz, like the other veterans on the team, was preaching how the Cards haven’t yet done anything even at 6-0. He also talked about his spot on the 2017 Super Bowl champion Eagles as the best part of his career.

That’s why he told his wife she needed to be in charge of getting their personal lives settled. He’s got work to do, work that started on the trip to Cleveland.

“One thing a lot of great players are able to do is compartmentalize things, and you have to as an NFL player,” Ertz said. “All my focus right now is learning this playbook, meeting the guys and being the best tight end I can be.

“It’s full speed ahead against the Texans on Sunday. I’m excited to be a Cardinal.”

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