Packers sending star defender Za’Darius Smith to injured reserve, edge rusher will be out for ‘a while’


NFL: NFC Championship-Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Green Bay Packers were dealt some more bad news this week. 

Head coach Matt LaFleur announced on Friday that edge rusher Za’Darius Smith will be placed on injured reserve with an injured back. The Packers will have to make do without their star pass rusher against the Lions, 49ers, and Steelers over the next three weeks, and it sounds like Smith will be out longer than that as well, if LaFleur’s comments regarding the situation are to be believed. 

“Gonna have to shut him down for a while,” LaFleur said. “Why not try to get him as healthy as possible so we can have him more readily available?”

Smith played only 18 of 62 defensive snaps against New Orleans, a 29 percent playing-time clip. He recorded just one tackle and did not pick up any sacks, hits, or hurries. 

He has been one of Green Bay’s most productive and impactful defensive players since signing a four-year, $66 million contract prior to the 2019 season. While playing and started all 32 games in 2019 and 2020, Smith racked up 107 tackles (29 for loss), 26 sacks, and 60 quarterback hits. 

In his absence, both Rashan Gary and Preston Smith are likely to see increased playing time, while 2020 seventh-round pick Jonathan Garvin could get on the field more often as well. New defensive coordinator Joe Barry will have to find a way to account for his absence, whether via increased use of the blitz or simply getting more production out of those ancillary players. 

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