Packers pass rusher Za'Darius Smith ticketed for marijuana in car

Bruce Vielmetti Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith could find himself playing a different kind of defense next week at the Racine County Courthouse, where he's scheduled for a hearing on tickets for speeding and possessing marijuana or synthetic marijuana.

The citations — which are not criminal charges — stem from a Sept. 29 traffic stop while Smith, 27, and teammates Rashan Gary and Kingsley Keke were returning to Green Bay from a trip to Chicago that landed them all briefly in handcuffs.

Smith, acquired in free agency from the Baltimore Ravens, has eight sacks this year. Gary, a 21-year-old linebacker, was a first-round pick from Michigan. Keke, 23, a defensive lineman, was drafted in the fifth round after playing at Texas A&M.

Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith (55) celebrates a 27-16 victory against the Denver Broncos Sunday, September 22, 2019, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

“The Packers are aware of the matter involving Za’Darius Smith," a team spokesperson said Friday. "We will refrain from making any further comment as it is a legal matter.”

Smith's agent did not return a text message.

According to reports from the Racine County Sheriff's Office, Smith was driving a gray 2019 GMC Yukon northbound on Interstate 94 about 5:30 p.m. when deputies clocked him going 81 mph in a 60 mph construction zone.

A deputy activated his lights and pulled Smith over on the ramp to county Highway 20. Because a deputy smelled the odor of marijuana, all three players were asked to step out and were handcuffed and questioned separately.

Smith told a deputy he had smoked some marijuana earlier before the group left an apartment in Chicago to return to Green Bay. Deputies' reports indicated that none of the men smelled of marijuana once they were separated from the Yukon.

No drugs were found on any of the players, but three blunts — hollowed-out cigars filled with marijuana — and a vaping cartridge were found inside a duffel bag in the rear of the SUV.  The blunts were in a package of Backwoods cigars.

According to the reports, when asked about them again by a second deputy, after he read Smith his Miranda rights, Smith said, "What weed?" before saying "I'll put it on me," when asked if the blunts and the vaping cartridge were his.

None of the men showed any signs of being high, according to the reports, and background checks revealed none had any prior arrests for marijuana possession. They were released after Smith was given the two citations.

Packers rookie outside linebacker Rashan Gary discusses his personal development and the production of leaders Za'Darius and Preston Smith.

The citations appeared in Wisconsin's online court records system as being filed Oct. 21 and Oct. 30. One is for speeding on a freeway, 20 to 24 mph over the limit, and the other is for possession of marijuana or synthetic marijuana.

An initial appearance on both citations is set for 2 p.m. Monday in Racine; the online records suggest Smith's attendance is not mandatory. The records do not indicate if he has hired an attorney to represent him.

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (left) co-hosted Monday's Clubhouse Live in Appleton. Jones' guest was Packers rookie defensive lineman Kingsley Keke.

The Packers play the Chargers in Los Angeles on Sunday.

It’s unclear if Smith’s ticket would warrant a suspension under the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but the NFL is sure to investigate.

The policy states that players convicted of or admitting to a violation of law “relating to use, possession, acquisition, sale, or distribution of substances of abuse other than alcohol, or conspiring to do so, are subject to appropriate discipline as determined by the Commissioner.”

In the past two years, Packers running back Aaron Jones (two games) and tackle Alex Light (one game) have been suspended for minor marijuana charges related to use and possession.

Jones was pulled over for speeding and admitted to marijuana use in October 2017. His suspension was not announced until the offseason, so he sat out the first two games of the ’18 season. Light admitted to marijuana use, but there was no public record of an arrest or ticketing. He was suspended in Week 16 of the 2018 season.

The discipline procedures for marijuana abusers are less strict than those for violations for all other drugs, but testing positive for the drug results in entrance into the league’s drug program and doesn’t result in suspension. Players are tested once a year for marijuana.

Being ticketed or arrested for use or possession can result in suspension.

Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.