Za’Darius Smith’s back injury ‘could potentially’ keep him out of season opener

Green Bay could be without its top pass rusher to start the season.

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith started training camp on the NFI (non-football injury) list but was cleared to return within the last week. But he made it just two practices before a setback has led to the team shutting him down again.

Coach Matt LaFleur said Sunday that Smith’s status for the season opener against New Orleans Sept. 12 “could potentially” be at risk due to the injury.

“I’m not quite sure when we’ll get Z back,” LaFleur said. “He’s injured right now. I know he wants to be out there but we’re going to be smart with him. He’s obviously a big time player for us. It definitely is a concern.”

There was a report prior to training camp that Smith was “believed to be unhappy” regarding a move the Packers made with his contract. That led some to wonder if his injury and lack of practice time had anything to do with that unhappiness. GM Brian Gutekunst poured water on that idea Sunday, saying they moved some money around near the beginning of camp to address Smith’s issues.

“Listen, I don’t really talk about details of contracts, but this specific thing, he’s got an injury we’re working through,” Gutekunst said.

Smith has collected 26 sacks in his first two years with the Packers.