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Packers anticipating Za’Darius Smith back at practice

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: Jan. 10, 2022 at 5:15 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Green Bay is getting healthier at the right time with pass rusher Za’Darius Smith poised to return to practice this week for the first time since the season opener against New Orleans.

On Monday, reports from the NFL Network indicated Smith was could return as soon as this week to practice. Then the Packers pass rusher posted a video on his Instagram indicating he was ready to come back.

Head coach Matt Lafleur said later in the afternoon they did expect to have the other have of the Smith Brothers back at practice, but pumped the brakes a bit.

“We’ll see how he comes in on Wednesday, and if we can get him back out on the practice field then we’ll let him go. I think, you know, I want to temper the expectations. Here’s a guy who hasn’t practiced since really before the New Orleans game. We’ll get him back out there and see how he looks. See what type of shape he’s in, and he progresses and then checks all the boxes, then he’ll be back out on the field,” said Matt LaFleur.

Smith practiced just once during training camp, and again before the Saints game in week one. Still, he was able to play 18 snaps before exiting due to the back injury that would later require surgery. Smith has been a key part of the Packers defense, and finishing with 13.5 and 12.5 sacks respectively.

Green Bay already saw the return of tackle David Bakhtiari and center Josh Myers on Sunday against the Lions. Both were limited in their snap count in Detroit.

The Packers also saw cornerback Jaire Alexander return to practice on Friday after coming off the COVID-19 list. Alexander has been sidelined since suffering a shoulder injury against Pittsburgh in week four.

“I know everybody gets really excited. I’ve got to fight it myself. Ultimately you’ve got to see how everything works together, how it all meshes together because the continuity piece is absolutely critical. Obviously we want to get our best players out there. Ultimately they’ve got to know what to do. They’ve got to bring great energy and effort on every play. We’ve got to get these guys into football shape. That’s what we’re really going to focus on over the course of the next two weeks,” said LaFleur.

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