Za’Darius Smith can’t hide his excitement in playing his former team twice this season.
The former Green Bay Packers outside linebacker signed with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason after the Packers released him in March — a cost-cutting measure needed to sign Aaron Rodgers to a three-year, $150 million contract extension.
Facing the Packers in his home debut at U.S. Bank Stadium to open the season, Smith couldn’t contain himself thinking about playing against his former team and quarterback.
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‘Can’t Wait to See That Look on Aaron Rodgers’ Face’
Appearing on The Rich Eisen Show, Smith spoke on his eagerness to line up across from Rodgers.
“I can’t wait to get a chance to face them the first game and see that look on Aaron Rodgers’ face when he sees me on the other side of the ball,” Smith said.
Eisen asked, “What’s the face going to look like?”
Smith: “I don’t know but I hope all the fans can picture it.”
Hopefully, it looks something like this.
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Smith added that he’d exchange pleasantries with Rodgers, but at the end of the day, he’s excited to have a chance to hit some players who had red jersey immunity in Green Bay.
“No revenge. Just an excitement game. I’d been there for a while and not being able to go hard and tackle the running back there, Aaron Jones, or being able to hit Aaron Rodgers. Just to get the opportunity to do that and, at the end of the day, laugh at it because it’s all going to be a game. It’s all fun at the end of the day,” Smith said.
Rodgers Likely Played a Factor in Smith’s Release
Detailing his departure from the Packers on the Rich Eisen Show, Smith admitted he wanted to stay in Green Bay, but he was released due to a standstill in contract negotiations.
Smith was on the cap sheet for $27.6 million in 2022 and the Packers had to extend Rodgers to a lucrative deal first. Outside linebackers coach Mike Smith, who was Z. Smith’s position coach since 2019, leaving to join the Vikings also played a factor.
“It was more my contract situation. Something they wanted to do and I didn’t feel comfortable doing it. My coaches had left so they was like, ‘Okay, we’re just going to release you. Not going to hold you anywhere you don’t want to be anymore.’ I wanted to be there, but it just didn’t work out.”
Now in Minnesota, Z. Smith is eager to help the Vikings dethrone the three-time standing NFC North champion Packers, which Eisen called the “penthouse of the NFC North.”
Smith is looking to become the foundation of a similar structure in Minnesota.
“I know what it takes to be No. 1 in our (division). When I say that, now that I’m here I know that I can take that with me and help this team build to become the kings of the north,” Smith said. “We just gon’ take it one day at a time. But when it gets down to crunch time… we’re going to build to be the mansion of the north.