Za’Darius Smith will be playing his first game with the Vikings on Sunday, but the edge rusher will see plenty of familiar faces at US Bank Stadium.
Most of them will be on the other side of the field because the Vikings will be opening up against the Packers. Smith spent the last three years with the team before being released in March in a move that cleared a significant amount of cap space.
Smith’s final year in Green Bay saw him play in two games — the opener and the playoff loss to the 49ers — because he had back surgery that he believes soured his relationship with the Packers. Smith told Tyler Dunne of Go Long that it “felt like shit went south” when he went for a second medical opinion that led to the decision to have surgery and that he became “a nobody” to the team, which helped inspire him to join up with Green Bay’s Divisional rival.
“Walking past me not saying nothing. ‘Z, how’s your back doing?’ — there was none of that,” Smith said. “As you can see, that adds to why I’m on the other side. So, I can go back. I get to go back twice a year. . . . I put my back on the fucking line. I put everything. And that Year Three, I was treated badly. That’s why I’m here now. So, I can play them twice a year.”
Smith’s narrative ignores the fact that he originally agreed to a contract with the Ravens and backed out of it a short time later, but it seems things worked out in a way that should lead to a fully motivated Smith taking the field to kick off the regular season.