The Packers cut ties with two-time Pro Bowl pass rusher during the offseason after three years together, the last of which was marred by a back injury that Smith said set the two sides at odds. The Vikings’ newest addition shared his version of events with Tyler Dunne of Go Long ahead of a Week 1 showdown with the Packers, going so far as to say that a desire for revenge is what steered him to Minnesota in the first place.
“I put my all into it. That’s why I felt the way I did with Green Bay. I gave that s*** my all,” Smith said. “I put my blood, sweat … I put my back on the f***ing line. I put everything.”
“And that [third year], I was treated bad. That’s why I’m here [in Minnesota] now,” he continued. “So, I can play them twice a year.”
Smith Accused Packers’ Players And Coaches of Mistreating Him
Smith was a standout edge rusher during his first two seasons with the Packers, earning trips to the Pro Bowl in both 2019 and 2020 while tallying 60 quarterback hits, 26 sacks and five forced fumbles over that span, per Pro Football Reference.
However, Smith suffered from back pain during the 2021 preseason and sought a second opinion outside of Packers team doctors. He opted for surgery following Week 1, which ultimately cost him the rest of the regular season, while the Packers were pressing him to play through the injury. From that point on, Smith said, the relationship was never the same.
Smith added that he felt like he was reduced to a “nobody” throughout the organization, from the front office to the coaching staff and on down through the roster.
“I was like, ‘Damn, why am I being treated like this?’ I brought the culture. I helped change this s***. Why the f*** am I the one being treated like that?” Smith told Dunne. “Walking past me not saying nothing. ‘Z, how’s your back doing?’ There was none of that. As you can see, that adds on to why I’m on the other side. So I can go back. I get to go back two times a year.”
Smith now teams up with fellow edge rusher Danielle Hunter in Minnesota to create what is arguably one of the best pass rushing duos in the NFL when healthy, with a chance to tee off on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers immediately out of the gate.
Smith Said Packers Fans Have Misconception Over His Exit
The Packers offered indications early on last year that Smith might not be back with Green Bay in 2022. Namely, the team made a contract move that afforded the pass rusher with more guaranteed money last season while simultaneously upping his salary cap number for the following year to a level where cutting ties made the most financial sense.
Smith told Dunne that those moves, and the reporting that happened around them, led to a misconception among Packers fans about the how and the why behind his exit from Green Bay.
“That was the only thing I hated,” Smith explained. “A lot of fans are now upset with me about the situation. They hate me because they felt like I was just angry for no f****** reason. They thought I was angry over the contract.”
“I was like, ‘I did good. But that contract was one-year guaranteed,'” he continued. “So for me to come back into that building after going to see my doctor, it felt like s*** went south. After that, man, that year didn’t go how I wanted it to.”