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Report: Za’Darius Smith Expected to Play

“Guys play better when he’s out there. I was a better coach today when he was out there for damned sure.”
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith is expected to play in Sunday's season-opening showdown against the New Orleans Saints, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

After Smith didn’t practice on Friday, coach Matt LaFleur called him a game-time decision.

“We’ll give him all the way up to game time. And if he’s able to go, we’ll let him go,”  LaFleur said.

Smith practiced on Monday and Wednesday, as well as Thursday’s padded practice. After sitting out Friday’s practice, the Packers listed him as questionable.

Smith practiced only once during training camp. After that, he sat out three weeks before returning on Monday. Position coach Mike Smith was encouraged on Thursday, noting Smith’s rep count went from seven to 10 on Wednesday to 18 on Thursday.

However, he seemingly back-tracked on Friday.

“I wouldn’t say a setback, but he’s feeling some things,” LaFleur said. “We thought it was in the best interests to leave him out and then give him the next 48 hours to kind of prove whether or not he can go out there and play."

The Pro Bowler has 26 sacks over the last two seasons. He is one of only four players with at least 25 sacks over that span.

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“It’s definitely a difference when he’s out there,” Mike Smith said on Thursday. “Just his physicality and who he is and his leadership and all that stuff. Guys play better when he’s out there. I was a better coach today when he was out there for damned sure.”

Smith was one of only two players to not practice on Friday. The other was safety Vernon Scott, who missed the final two preseason games and the last couple weeks of practice with a hamstring injury.

Smith and defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster are questionable; Scott is out.

With an otherwise-healthy roster, the Packers didn't elevate any players from the practice squad.

New Orleans will be without two starters: cornerback Ken Crawley and receiver Tre’Quan Smith. Saints Pro Bowl cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who was limited on Thursday, practiced fully on Friday and is off the report.

Packers Injury Report

Out: S Vernon Scott (hamstring; DNP).

Questionable: OLB Za’Darius Smith (back; DNP), DT Tyler Lancaster (back; limited).

Saints Injury Report

Out: CB Ken Crawley (hamstring; DNP), WR Tre’Quan Smith (hamstring; DNP).

Questionable: OT James Hurst (knee; DNP).