packers notes photo 9-6

Za'Darius Smith's health will be clarified Wednesday when the Packers have to release their first injury report of the regular season.

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GREEN BAY — After taking part in exactly one practice throughout training camp because of a mysterious back injury, Za’Darius Smith was on the field with his Green Bay Packers teammates Monday afternoon at Clarke Hinkle Field.

Whether the Packers’ star edge rusher will be out there at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville on Sunday when the Packers open the 2021 season against the New Orleans Saints remains to be seen.

“We’re hopeful,” coach Matt LaFleur said.

LaFleur, speaking before practice, said the hope was Smith would go through individual drills, which is exactly what he did during the portion of practice open to reporters. Whether he did more after the media was ushered out is unknown.

Asked what he knew about the injury, LaFleur replied: “I know what it is. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I know what it is.”

Smith has not spoken with reporters during training camp, so he has not addressed the nature of the back injury or how or when it occurred. He started camp on the non-football injury list, which would indicate it happened between the end of the team’s offseason program and the start of camp. Wanting to collect on his $750,000 workout bonus, Smith did take part in the in-person organized team activity practices and mandatory minicamp.

Multiple sources said last month Smith had been unhappy with not getting a contract extension this offseason. Instead, the Packers converted his scheduled base salary into a signing bonus to clear salary-cap space. But according to Pro Football Talk, the Packers initially structured the payout of that $14.76 million to be a $5 million payment before the opener followed by weekly installment payments to pay him the remaining $9.76 million.

But at the start of camp, the Packers agreed to pay him $10 million up front, then spread the remaining $4.76 million out over the 18 weeks of the regular season. Whether that took care of Smith’s dissatisfaction is unclear since he has yet to be interviewed.

Meanwhile, the Packers also had defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster (elbow) and swing tackle Dennis Kelly (knee) taking part in Monday’s practice, leaving safety Vernon Scott (hamstring) as the only player not to take part in practice at all.

“I’d say we’re fairly healthy. For the most part, most of the guys are available,” LaFleur said. “That’s what we wanted to do, is making sure that the guys who needed the work out there in the preseason, they got the work. Some of our veteran guys, we chose not to play them so that they were hopefully 100% for Week 1.”

Adjusting on the fly

While the move of Sunday’s game from New Orleans to Jacksonville didn’t have a significant impact on the coaching staff’s game-planning, it did create some travel challenges for the support staff.

“Nothing that I had to handle. I’m sure Matt Klein’s hands were full a little bit in terms of getting hotel reservations,” LaFleur said of the Packers director of football logistics/team travel. “It did mess with the schedule just slightly on Saturday. I know it’s a longer trip. Obviously changing time zones, but for the most part it was pretty seamless.”

LaFleur said the team will be focused on hydration with the hot, humid conditions in Florida — the forecast calls for a high of 88 degrees with 73% humidity on Sunday — but that he’s unsure of how much the Packers will benefit from playing at a neutral site instead of at the Caesar’s Superdome in New Orleans.

“As far as the atmosphere is concerned, I really have no idea in terms of the number of fans that are going to be there,” LaFleur said. “Saints fans versus Packers fans? No idea.”

LaFleur said the team will go into the game expecting a pro-Saints crowd and prepared to use the silent count on offense, just as they would have in a full Superdome.

“I think you’ve got to prepare for it to be loud and then you adjust accordingly,” LaFleur said. “So, we’ll make sure that we have crowd noise and music blaring this week in practice because you just really don’t know.”

Extra points

LaFleur said he did not believe any players contracted COVID-19 during their three-day weekend away from the facility. … LaFleur gave his coaches the weekend off though he admitted he came into work on Sunday. “I took a little time,” he said. … LaFleur all but acknowledged rookie fourth-round pick Royce Newman will start at one of the guard spots Sunday, alongside fellow rookie Josh Myers. Myers, a second-round pick, will start at center.

Photos: Packers' 2021 season in pictures

Check out photo galleries from every game of 2021 from the preseason through the end of the regular season and the playoffs.

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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