Everything is falling into place for the Green Bay Packers just before taking on the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst officially activated All-Pro outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith from injured reserve on Friday, January 21, giving the 29-year-old a chance to play in his first game since Green Bay’s season opener in September.
Smith has been dealing with a back injury since the summertime that caused him to miss the majority of training camp with the issue and limited to just nine pass-rushing snaps in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints. He was placed on injured reserve three days later and ended up having back surgery toward the end of September, raising questions about whether he would be able to return at all this season.
Fortunately, Smith has taken some positive steps since the Packers concluded the regular season. He was designated for return from injured reserve during their first-round bye week on January 12 and has been practicing again for a week and a half. While it is unclear whether he will actually play against the 49ers, his return to the active roster — well before the end of his 21-day activation window — indicates he could be close to getting back on the field for game day.
The Packers also activated veteran outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus on Thursday. To create room on their 53-man roster, they released cornerback/special teams contributor Isaac Yiadom and rookie defensive lineman Jack Heflin.
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