After their top pass rusher spent most of training camp on the sidelines and was on and off the practice field this week, the Green Bay Packers got some good news on Sunday morning. Za'Darius Smith is apparently going to play in today's season opener against the New Orleans Saints, Ccording to multiple media reports and Smith himself.
The first report came from FOX11's Nicole Menner:
#Packers Za’Darius Smith is telling fans he is playing today. Said he couldn’t miss the first one.— Nicole Menner (@NicoleMenner) September 12, 2021
Ian Rapaport of NFL Network later confirmed via a Packers source that Smith should be ready to go. And Smith tweeted as well, implying his readiness:
It’s GameDay Baby‼️Let’s Go— Za'Darius Smith (@zadariussmith) September 12, 2021
Smith's availability will be a big boost for the Packers' defense, which can now rotate through their top three pass rushers. With Za'Darius joining Rashan Gary and Preston Smith, the team should be able to minimize any snaps for young and unproven outside linebackers Jonathan Garvin and Chauncey Rivers.
Za'Darius Smith has led the Packers in sacks each of the past two seasons, posting double digits with 13.5 in 2019 and 12 in 2020. In a bit of a surprise, he was not named a captain on the 2021 squad, with Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, and Adrian Amos earning that honor for the defense.
Stay tuned to APC about 90 minutes prior to the 3:25 Central Time kickoff to see which players will be inactive for today's game.