D.J. Smith started the first six games of the season for the Packers last year.
Now, he’s out on the street.
The inside linebacker, who was a sixth-round pick in 2011, was released today in the midst of his rehabilitation from reconstructive knee surgery. Smith sustained a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 14 at Houston. He was the second player the Packers released today that was coming off an ACL tear. The other was running back Brandon Saine, whose injury also came against the Texans.
Both players failed their physical, but neither would have been expected to pass it at this point in their rehab.
“I can only tell you what they told us, and that’s they needed to create some space for things they thought was coming,” said Smith’s agent, Lamont Smith. “From our perspective, he was ahead of schedule. If you watched the rehab and the conditioning, he was running and lifting. It was curious to us what caused this.”
Smith said the Packers left open the possibility that they could bring his client back at some point.
“But the phone has been ringing off the hook for him,” the agent said. “They did say there’s a possibility that once he’s healthy, that they could bring him back. They just indicated there was something they needed to create some space for.”
Smith, who took over the starting job after Desmond Bishop tore his hamstring in the preseason, was still playing under his rookie contract and was scheduled to earn $550,000 this season. His salary cap number was just $580,788. The Packers expect Bishop back and also re-signed Brad Jones and agreed to a restructured contract with A.J. Hawk. Jones and Hawk finished the season as the starting inside linebackers.
Saine, an undrafted rookie, was scheduled to make $550,000 this season, which was the same as his cap figure.