Former All-Pro Packers linebacker Za’Darius Smith joined the divisional-rival Minnesota Vikings this offseason — now he’s reflecting on his time with Green Bay and highlighting that he and the team weren’t on good terms en route to their eventual split.
Despite sharing a productive two-year stretch (2019-2020) and back-to-back Pro Bowl campaigns, Smith and the Packers ended up leaving on bad terms as both sides grew apart during Smith’s rehab from a back injury, which ended up sidelining him the entire 2021 season.
Smith said it felt like a fall from grace. The new Vikings LB shared his thoughts on the split during an interview with GoLongTD.com.
“How I was here in the building. I came down to here. To a nobody. To everybody in the building. I was like, ‘Damn, why am I being treated like this? I brought the culture. I helped change this s**t. Why the f**k am I the one being treated like that?'” he shared.
Smith first signed with the Packers in 2019, agreeing to a four-year, $66 million contract after four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. He noted in the interview that the team began to distance themselves from him as he sought a second opinion on a back injury.
“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 on to why I’m on the other side. So, I can go back. I get to go back two times a year.
“I put my all into it. That’s why I felt the way I did with Green Bay. I gave that s**t 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.”
As relayed by ESPN, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur addressed Za’Darius’ comments.
“I think we may have a different perspective of how things transpired,” LaFleur said.
Follow Alejandro Avila on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela