Packers ‘hopeful’ OLB Za’Darius Smith will practice ahead of Week 1

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The Green Bay Packers don’t know if Za’Darius Smith will play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, but it’s possible the All-Pro edge rusher will return to practice in some capacity this week.

Coach Matt LaFleur said he’s “hopeful” that Smith will practice, potentially starting Monday.

“We’ll see if he can get out there and do some individual today. Yeah, we’re hopeful,” LaFleur said Monday.

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Smith was in uniform and doing individual drills at practice on Monday.

Smith, a Pro Bowler in 2019 and 2020, started training camp on the NFI list with a back injury and returned for only a few practices before suffering a setback. Two weeks ago, LaFleur confirmed the Packers were concerned about Smith’s status for Week 1.

The Packers play the Saints in Jacksonville in the opener on Sunday afternoon.

With a 17-game schedule ahead, the Packers have consistently said they will be safe with big-time players such as Smith and left tackle David Bakhtiari. Smith would likely have to practice without issue during team periods this week to have a chance to play against the Saints.

Last season, Smith forced a crucial fumble in the second half of the Packers’ win in New Orleans. He finished the season with 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles and was named a second-team All-Pro.

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Packers 'concerned' about OLB Za'Darius Smith, who could miss Week 1