Packers OLB Za’Darius Smith has back surgery, out indefinitely

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It’s possible the Green Bay Packers won’t get another snap from All-Pro edge rusher Za’Darius Smith during the 2021 season.

According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, Smith had back surgery this week and is expected to miss significant time.

The Packers already have Smith on injured reserve. He entered the summer with the injury and missed most of training camp. The Packers got 18 snaps out of Smith during Week 1 but shut him down soon after.

Back injuries requiring surgery always have unpredictable timelines, but Garafolo reports there is “hope” he could return at some point this season.

The Packers will move forward with Preston Smith and Rashan Gary at outside linebacker. However, there is no downplaying the impact of the loss. Smith was an All-Pro in 2020 and had developed into one of the game’s most versatile and disruptive pass-rushing forces.

Smith played in all 32 games for the Packers during his first two seasons in Green Bay. Named to the Pro Bowl each year, Smith had 26.0 sacks and 60 quarterback hits over the two seasons.

The Packers have Jonathan Garvin, Chauncey Rivers and La’Darius Hamilton as the backups at outside linebacker. Searching for a veteran might make sense now that Smith is out indefinitely.

Smith’s cap charge rises to $28.1 million in 2022. The Packers will have a big decision to make on his future after this season.

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