One of Kentucky’s brightest NFL stars has been sidelined. Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur announced Friday afternoon that Za’Darius Smith will be placed on the injured reserve list to rehabilitate a back injury.
Smith, a Green Bay team captain, was limited to just two practices in the preseason. He powered through the back injury to play 18 snaps in the season-opener. Smith recorded one tackle in the 38-3 loss to the Saints.
“We’re going to have to shut him down for a while,” LaFleur said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “It’s a matter of, do just you keep him in a limited role, or do you shut him down for a while, get him healthy, and get him up to the snap count that you’d like him to be.”
In 2020 Za’Darius Smith was one of the NFL’s top pass-rushers, finishing fifth in sacks with 12.5. He tacked on 52 tackles and 12 non-sack tackles for loss to earn his second straight Pro Bowl bid.
One of Mark Stoops’ first high-profile signings at Kentucky, the former junior college star played in all 24 games of his two-year UK career, racking up seven sacks in each season. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens.
After a tumultuous offseason between Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers, the Pack need something to go their way. Without Za’Darius Smith in the lineup, things could get worse before they get better in Green Bay.