Packers’ head coach Matt LaFleur announced today that Za’Darius Smith has returned to practice after 17 weeks on IR. He’s been designated to return so this practice begins the window of return before Smith must be placed back on IR.
The Packers have been working without their Pro Bowl pass rusher for all but 18 snaps of football this year. Smith exited the team’s Week 1 matchup with a back injury that had been nagging him for most of the offseason. Smith underwent back surgery in hopes that he could make a late-season return, and he’s hoping to stand by that expectation.
Smith had seen two straight seasons of double-digit sacks since signing with the Packers as a free agent. Green Bay has been eager to see their top pass rusher paired up again with Preston Smith and an improved Rashan Gary. In his absence, Preston Smith and Gary have combined for 18.5 sacks this season.
This return is timely as the Packers have a first-round bye in the playoffs before they face off against the lowest remaining seed from Super Wild Card Weekend. This means Smith will have two weeks of practice to get back up to game speed and be ready to contribute. Green Bay will be excited to get a boost to their pass rush as they strive for their first Super Bowl appearance since winning Super Bowl XLV as a Wild Card team in the 2010-11 NFL season.