NFL: NFC Championship-Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers will be without star linebacker Za'Darius Smith for some time after he was injured in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints. On Friday, Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network reported that Smith underwent back surgery this week, and he's expected to be out for an extended period of time. 

According to Garafolo, the hope is that this won't be a season-ending issue. Head coach Matt LaFleur announced earlier this month that Smith would be placed on injured reserve and that they understood he would miss several games.

"Gonna have to shut him down for a while," LaFleur said on Sept. 17, the same day Smith went on IR. "Why not try to get him as healthy as possible so we can have him more readily available?"

Smith played only 18 of 62 defensive snaps against New Orleans in Week 1, a 29 percent playing-time clip. He recorded just one tackle and did not pick up any sacks, hits, or hurries. 

He has been one of Green Bay's most productive and impactful defensive players since signing a four-year, $66 million contract prior to the 2019 season. While playing and started all 32 games in 2019 and 2020, Smith racked up 107 tackles (29 for loss), 26 sacks, and 60 quarterback hits. 

In his absence, both Rashan Gary and Preston Smith are likely to see increased playing time, while 2020 seventh-round pick Jonathan Garvin could get on the field more often as well. New defensive coordinator Joe Barry will have to find a way to account for his absence, whether via increased use of the blitz or simply getting more production out of those ancillary players.

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