Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Packers open practice window for Za’Darius Smith as he works back from surgery, eyes return for playoffs

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 1 seed Green Bay Packers are getting healthier for the playoffs. On Wednesday, head coach Matt LaFleur announced that pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith had his practice window opened, and he’s eyeing a return for the playoffs.

“We’re just trying to get him to a position where we feel comfortable where, not only can he go out there and compete at a high level but also he hasn’t really been in this system other than one game. We have to make sure he understands his job responsibility, first and foremost,” LaFleur said before Wednesday’s practice, via the Packers’ official website

“We just want to re-acclimate him into practice and see how that goes and see how it all meshes before we solidify our plan. Luckily, we not only have this week but next week to continue to get him up to speed.”

Smith, who recorded a combined 26 sacks over the last two years for the Packers, was dealing with a back injury and only played in the season opener against the New Orleans SaintsNFL Media’s Mike Garafolo reported that Smith underwent back surgery at the end of September, and was expected to miss “an extended period of time.” He missed the final 16 games of the regular season.

Smith quickly proved to be a huge free-agent signing for the Packers after spending his first four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. He was named a Pro Bowler in both of his first two seasons with Green Bay, and was a second-team All Pro in 2020. Preston Smith and Rashan Gary have held down the edges for the Packers so far, but Smith’s anticipated return is a more than welcomed one. 

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