Packers sign linebacker Jaylon Smith

FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, file photo, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith...
FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, file photo, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys are moving on from Smith without getting into the specifics of the decision to release their leading returning tackler four games into 2021. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman, File)(Roger Steinman | AP)
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 7:44 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Jaylon Smith has joined the Green Bay Packers, one day after the Dallas Cowboys released the veteran linebacker.

The Packers officially announced Thursday afternoon that they had signed Smith. Packers coach Matt LaFleur had talked earlier in the day about how the former Cowboy would fit in with the Packers.

“I just think (he’s) a veteran guy who’s played at a really high level and just can bring kind of a mentality and leadership to our defense,” LaFleur said.

“Certainly he’s going to be behind quite a bit, being the fact we’re heading to Week 5 and it’s a totally different system, so there’s going to be a lot of work that needs to be put in, not only from him but from our coaching staff to get him up to speed, but we’ll let him kind of come in here and compete to play.”

Smith wasn’t available to practice on Thursday, and LaFleur said it’s “highly unlikely” that Smith would play for the Packers (3-1) as soon as Sunday’s game in Cincinnati (3-1).

When defensive coordinator Joe Barry spoke to reporters late Thursday afternoon, he still hadn’t met Smith. Barry said teaching the verbiage will be the starting point.

“He’s a good football player,” Packers linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti said after meeting Smith for the first time. “He’s played a ton of football. He can do a lot of different things. To be quite honest, we’ll find out more once we get our hands on him a little bit.”

Smith made the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement in 2019 and led the Cowboys in tackles each of the past two seasons. He had nine tackles against Green Bay during the Packers’ 34-24 victory at Dallas in 2019.

“I remember he was a bad dude in there,” Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “He was definitely somebody we had to account for sideline to sideline, being a force in the middle, so excited to have him on the team.”

Smith’s performance had dipped over the past year. Smith played just 16 snaps in a season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the Cowboys cleared the way for rookie linebacker Micah Parsons, the 12th overall pick in this year’s draft.

The Cowboys released Smith at the same time they anticipated getting linebacker Keanu Neal back after the converted safety missed two games because of a positive COVID-19 test.

“I like him as a person, and he’s a super like friendly, happy guy, even on the field,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Wednesday when he was asked about Smith.

“He’s a fierce competitor, but he always has a smile on his face. So I appreciate that about him, and it was just more of a respectful competitor-to-competitor conversation after the game.

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