The No. 1 seed Green Bay Packers are getting healthier for the playoffs. One day before their divisional-round bout against the San Francisco 49ers, the team announced that it had activated pass-rushers Za'Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus from injured reserve.
Smith, who recorded a combined 26 sacks over the last two years for the Packers, was dealing with a back injury and only played in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints. NFL Media's Mike Garafolo reported that Smith underwent back surgery at the end of September, and was expected to miss "an extended period of time." He didn't play again in the regular season. Last week, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur announced that Smith had his practice window opened, and that he would be eyeing a return for the playoffs.
"We're just trying to get him to a position where we feel comfortable where, not only can he go out there and compete at a high level but also he hasn't really been in this system other than one game. We have to make sure he understands his job responsibility, first and foremost," LaFleur said, via the Packers' official website.
Mercilus joined the Packers in October after being released by the Houston Texans, but he suffered a torn biceps in Week 10 against the Seattle Seahawks -- just four games into his career with Green Bay. The injury was thought to be season-ending, but he has fought back to return for a Super Bowl run. Preston Smith and Rashan Gary have held down the edges for the Packers so far, but Smith's and Mercilus' returns are more than welcomed.