Reports: Packers OLB Za’Darius Smith out after back surgery

FILE- In this Dec. 13, 2020, file photo, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith...
FILE- In this Dec. 13, 2020, file photo, Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith (55) plays against the Detroit Lions during the first half of an NFL football game in Detroit. The back issue that bothered Smith throughout the preseason will now force the Packers to play without their Pro Bowl pass rusher for the next few weeks. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)(Paul Sancya | AP)
Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 4:30 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith had back surgery, according to reports by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport.

Garafolo says the Packers hope it isn’t a season-ending operation for Smith, but it will definitely extend his absence beyond the three weeks the Packers initially hoped when they put Smith on injured reserve before their Week 2 game against the Detroit Lions. With the NFL’s new IR rules, Smith would’ve been eligible to return to the active roster next week.

The Pro Bowl pass rusher was dealing with his back injury since at least the start of training camp and took limited snaps in the season opener against the Saints.

Head coach Matt LaFleur said when the Packers put Smith on Inured Reserve, “It’s a matter of just, do you keep him in a limited role? Or do you shut him down for a while, try to get him healthy and then get him up to the snap count that we’d like him to be, just like he’s been in the past, because he’s such an impact player?”

The Packers pass rush has shown improvement even without Smith.

Their pass rush was absent in New Orleans, getting just one hit on the quarterback and no sacks. Since that game, the team’s had more hits and sacks each successive week. Two of the team’s 11 QB hits last week led directly to turnovers and four sacks helped end other drives.

Smith is one of only 3 players in the NFL to register 12 or more sacks in each of the last two seasons. The others are Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt, who the Packers will play this Sunday at Lambeau Field.

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