GREEN BAY, Wisconsin – First left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Josh Myers are on. Now Za’Darius Smith could be the next key player to return to the Green Bay Packers in time for the playoffs.
The second-team All-Pro outside linebacker from a year ago will practice this week during the Packers’ first-round pass, and if all goes well, he could play for the first time since the start. of the season. Smith only played 18 regular-season snaps – all in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints – and then underwent back surgery for an issue that plagued him during training camp.
“I kind of want to temper expectations,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said on Monday. “Here’s a guy who hasn’t really trained since that game in New Orleans. We’re going to get him back there and see what he looks like, see what kind of shape he’s in. If he progresses and ticks off. all the boxes, then there ‘I’ll come back to the field.’
With 13.5 sacks in 2019 and 12.5 in 2020, Smith was one of only three players with more than 12 sacks each in those two seasons, joining Aaron Donald and TJ Watt.
Smith has yet to be nominated to come back out of the injured reserve. This would likely happen on Wednesday before practice.
The defense could also pick up another All-Pro second team from last year with cornerback Jaire Alexander. He hasn’t played since his Week 4 shoulder injury. He may have been on track to return last week, but landed on the reserve / COVID-19 roster.
Bakhtiari made his season debut against the Lions on Sunday, playing 27 snaps in his first action since tearing an ACL over a year ago. Myers also returned and played for the first time since a Week 6 knee injury. A third offensive line starter could also return with right tackle Billy Turner, who missed the last four games of the regular season in due to a knee injury.
“I think he’ll be back at some point this week, but as long as he’s out there on Wednesday, I can let you know on Wednesday,” LaFleur said of Turner.
The biggest injury issue this week concerns wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who dropped out of Sunday’s game in Detroit with a back injury. LaFleur said he was not sure Valdes-Scantling would practice this week.
LaFleur said he plans to have the seeded Packers work outside in cold weather to prepare for the January 22 or 23 NFC Division playoff game at Lambeau Field. The Packers have been working indoors all last week to prepare for the Lions.