As if there wasn’t enough juice to the season opener between the rival Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, one player who has switched sides gave it a little extra.
Za’Darius Smith, who signed with the Vikings this offseason after three seasons with the Packers, criticized how his former team handled the back injury that kept him out for most of last season.
In an interview with GoLongTD.com that was published Wednesday, Smith said he was “treated bad” by the Packers during the process of trying to return from his injury and that the team seemed bothered that he had sought a second opinion.
“How I was here in the building,” Smith said in the interview, holding his hand high before tilting it down, “I came down to here. To a nobody. To everybody in building. I was like, ‘Damn, why am I being treated like this? I brought the culture. I helped change this s—. Why the f— am I the one being treated like that?’
“Walking past me not saying nothing. ‘Z, how’s your back doing?’ There was none of that. As you can see, that adds on to why I’m on the other side. So, I can go back. I get to go back two times a year.”
Said Packers coach Matt LaFleur on Wednesday: “I think we may have a different perspective of how things transpired.”
Smith said in the story that he injured his back while weightlifting heading into training camp last summer. He missed most of camp but played in the season opener before deciding to have surgery shortly thereafter. He missed the rest of the regular season but returned for the Packers’ playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Packers released Smith this past offseason in a move that saved them $15.75 million on their salary cap. Smith, who was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons with the Packers (2019-2020), initially agreed to rejoin his original team, the Baltimore Ravens, before he backed out and signed with the Vikings instead.
“I put my all into it,” Smith said in the story. “That’s why I felt the way I did with Green Bay. I gave that s— my all. I put my blood, sweat … I put my back on the f—ing line. I put everything. And that Year 3, I was treated bad. That’s why I’m here now. So I can play them twice a year.”