Edge rusher Za'Darius Smith active for Green Bay Packers' opener against New Orleans Saints

Ryan Wood
Packers News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -  Za'Darius Smith will be active Sunday for the Green Bay Packers against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field despite a startling lack of practice time to prepare for the 2021 opener.

A back injury has kept Smith out of all but four practices since the start of training camp. Smith was listed questionable on Friday's injury report because of the back injury.

General manager Brian Gutekunst has said Smith's absence in camp is "100 percent" related to the injury, and that the two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher was not a "hold in" because of contractual disputes.

Smith attempted to return to practice midway through camp, but he did not return the next day. He practiced three times this week, including in pads Thursday, but did not participate Friday.

"I wouldn’t say (he had) a setback,” LaFleur said Friday, “but he’s feeling some things (in his back). So we thought it was in the best interest to leave him out, and give him the next 48 hours to kind of prove whether or not he can go out there and play.”

The Packers have five inactive players against the Saints:

  • Shemar Jean-Charles, cornerback
  • center Jake Hanson, center
  • Jack Heflin, defensive lineman
  • Isaiah McDuffie, inside linebacker
  • Vernon Scott (hamstring), safety

Scott was ruled out on Friday's injury report.

Defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster (elbow) is active. He was listed as questionable Friday.

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It will be fascinating to see how many snaps the Packers afford Smith on Sunday. Just because he's active doesn't mean he'll play much. The Packers were abundantly cautious with injured starters last season, keeping right tackle Billy Turner (knee), receiver Davante Adams (hamstring) and running back Aaron Jones (calf) out for precautionary reasons throughout 2020.

The decision to have Smith active Sunday is a reversal of that approach.