Za’Darius and Preston Smith’s joint press conferences were a feature — if not a highlight — of the 2019 Packers season. The two free agent edge rushers brought unique energy and humor to the Packers’ locker room.
But since the ongoing pandemic is taking everything good away, the Smiths have been limited to solo Zoom calls, though Za’Darius Smith nearly burst the Packers’ bubble protocols to maintain the tradition.
“Man, it’s so sad. I told Preston we were gonna do it anyway, I was just gonna bust in here while he was doing it.”
Heading into their second season together, both Za’Darius and Preston smith told reporters they’re eager to build off their strong performances last year. The pair combined for 25.5 sacks and together represented one of the most productive pass-rushing duos in the league.
And pandemic or not, they’re prepared to do it again. Even if their freewheeling nature is muted somewhat off the field, on the field it’ll be a different story.
“In this system, guys like me and Z are allowed to be ourselves,” said Preston, who’s eager to get down to work with the Packers’ ascending players.
“We have a lot of guys returning. A lot of key weapons. A lot of young guys coming up who will play bigger roles on our defense”
Key among those players is Rashan Gary, the 12th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. In minimal playing time, Gary posted two sacks, but he’s poised for a much bigger role this year. Darnell Savage and Jaire Alexander also figure to take steps in their second and third years, respectively.
That’s not to say the Smiths aren’t ready for big roles again. Za’Darius and Preston played 872 and 870 snaps respectively last season, but both said they’d be willing to play as many or more this year if it’s necessary. Za’Darius, in particular, didn’t seem phased by the increased wear and tear that comes with playing a high snap count.
“I’m built Ford tough, I can tell you that much,” he said.