Green Bay Packers to place OLB Za'Darius Smith on IR with lingering back injury

Aaron Rodgers recognizes that the Packers must perform better after losing in Week 1. However, he cautions against reacting too quickly. (0:46).
Rodgers: "We're in trouble" if we start freaking out after a week (0:46).

GREEN BAY (Wis.) - Za'Darius Smith was able to prepare for the Green Bay Packers' season opener despite suffering a back injury during training camp. However, the Packers have decided to shut him down after he played just 18 snaps against the New Orleans Saints.

Coach Matt LaFleur announced Friday that Smith will be placed on injured reserve. This means that Smith will be out for at least three games before being eligible to return, but could miss more.

The Packers considered keeping him on the active list and limiting his playing time, but decided to keep him off the roster until the Cincinnati Bengals game on Oct. 10.

"Why not get him as healthy and available as soon as possible, so that he can be more easily available? LaFleur said.

Smith has been a Pro Bowler twice in as many seasons since he signed a $66 million four-year deal with the Packers in 2019. He is one of three NFL players with 12+ sacks in each of his past two seasons.

Smith wanted to be extended his contract, but the Packers converted his roster bonuses and base salary into a signing bonus. This was paid last month. A source said that it did not meet his expectations. Smith hasn't spoken to reporters since training camp began. He also seemed annoyed that he wasn't reelected as team captain. Smith tweeted "Wow" shortly after the announcement of the captains last week.

Smith was injured in his back and reported to training camp. He was then placed on the non-football injury roster. Smith practiced once before being shut down for the second week. The week before the opener, he practiced only three times.

His 18-snap match against the Saints was highlighted by a hit on Jameis Winston, which forced Darnell Savage to intercept Winston's pass. However, Smith was penalized for roughing the passer -- something the Packers strongly opposed.

To fill Smith's roster spot, the Packers signed OLB LaDarius Hamilton from the Buccaneers practice team. Hamilton was an undrafted-free agent for the Cowboys in 2020, but was claimed off waivers last offseason by Tampa Bay. For Monday's game against Detroit Lions, Preston Smith and Rashan Gary, the 2019 first-round draft pick will be on the edge. Jonathan Garvin and Chauncey riverss will be the primary backups.