Packers’ Za’Darius Smith Shares Encouraging Injury Update

Z Smith Injury Update

Getty Outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith #55 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after winning 24-16 over the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field on December 19, 2020 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Less than 24 hours after knocking off the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals on the road, the Green Bay Packers could be getting some encouraging injury news.

On the morning of Friday, October 29, Packers outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith shared on Twitter that he had “just landed back in Green Bay” and was looking forward to getting “back on the field with my bros,” indicating the All-Pro pass rusher could be nearing a return from the back surgery he underwent in late September.

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Smith’s status has been one of the biggest question marks for the Packers this season. He missed nearly every practice in training camp with back issues but was active for their season opener against New Orleans, playing in a limited capacity. Then, the Packers opted to place him on injured reserve on September 17 and provided no concrete updates on when — or if — he would return during the 2021 season.

Fortunately, Smith said he feels “like a new man” when asked about his back on Monday morning and would appear to be trending in the right direction.

While Preston Smith and Rashan Gary have effectively guided the Packers’ pass rush in his absence, Smith is undeniably one of their greatest defensive assets and would be a welcomed addition for a team that has won seven consecutive games during his time away. He generated 32 sacks and 164 total pressures during his first two seasons in Green Bay and earned second-time All-Pro recognition in 2020 for his efforts.

Smith is eligible to be activated off injured reserve as soon as he is healthy enough to return to practice, but even a best-case scenario likely puts him a few weeks away from returning to the rotation for the team. The Packers still have four more games to play before their bye week arrives in December during Week 13.

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Whitney Mercilus Looking Like Strong Pickup

The signing of veteran pass rusher Whitney Mercilus continues to look like a wise decision for Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst. When Houston released him earlier in October, he had recorded five total pressures and three quarterback hurries over six games to begin the season. Now, after just two games in Green Bay, Mercilus has added another seven quarterback pressures and six quarterback hurries.

According to Pro Football Focus, Mercilus finished Week 8’s win over the Cardinals as the Packers’ highest-graded defensive player (80.9), recording three pressures, a quarterback hit and a tackle across 23 pass-rushing snaps. He also held up much better against the run than either Smith or Gary in Arizona.

It was a big night for several of the veterans who weren’t on the Packers’ roster back in May. De’Vondre Campbell once again made an impact as their top inside linebacker and defensive signal-caller, killing one of the Cardinals’ early drives with a sack. For a second time this season, Randall Cobb caught two touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers that proved even more valuable with Davante Adams and Allen Lazard out.

Then, of course, there was cornerback Rasul Douglas, who was signed off of Arizona’s practice squad less than a month ago and entered the starting lineup in the absence of veteran Kevin King. He picked off Kyler Murray in the end zone at the end of the game, sealing the Packers’ victory.

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