Za’Darius Smith Renews Vow for Vengeance on Sunday
Minnesota Vikings EDGE rusher Za’Darius Smith told Rich Eisen from NFL Network in May that he was excited to play the Green Bay Packers in 2022, his former place of employment from 2019 to 2021.
Smith said, “I can’t wait to get a chance to face them the first game and see that look on Aaron Rodgers’ face when he sees me on the other side of the ball. It’s going to be a, ‘It’s good to see you again, but now, it’s not at practice.'”
But that was evidently just a precursor to how he really felt, as Smith elaborated more this week to Tyler Dunne from GoLongTD.com. Smith told Dunne, “For me to be where I’m at today, that’s how you know I love the game. I put my all into it. That’s why I felt the way I did with Green Bay. I gave that sh-t my all. I put my blood, sweat; I put my back on the f–king line. I put everything. And that Year 3, I was treated bad.”
Smith continued by stating he joined the Vikings specifically to exact vengeance on Green Bay, “That’s why I’m here now. So, I can play them twice a year.”
He’ll have triple motivation on Sunday. First, it’s his birthday weekend. Smith turns 30 on Thursday, just days before seeing Rodgers’ face. It’s also his opportunity to make a first impression on Vikings fans because Minnesota plays Green Bay immediately in the season. And, there’s the aforementioned revenge factor that Smith mentioned to Eisen and Dunne.
The Vikings added Smith in March via free agency, the splashiest Vikings addition of 2022 — and arguably the last several years. Fans theorized that Smith might have retribution on the brain, but even this level is surprising to some.
The defender missed almost all of the 2021 season with a back injury, causing the Packers to move on — especially as the Wisconsin team was “up against it” for cap space. Smith departed Green Bay inside the same week that wideout Davante Adams was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Before the back injury, Smith was dominant as a Packer, even carving up the Vikings when the teams met twice annually. Za’Darius Smith was signed along with Preston Smith during the 2019 offseason, formulating the “Smith Bros.” for a couple of seasons. And it caused the Vikings headaches.
During the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the Packers, Smith ranked third in the NFL for sacks (26.0), tying Aaron Donald. Only T.J. Watt and Shaquil Barrett accrued more sacks in those two seasons. Now, he’ll pair with Danielle Hunter, a sack magnet unto himself.
The Vikings are 1.5-point underdogs heading into the Green Bay matchup, despite Smith’s predictions of avengement. In 61 Week 1 games throughout franchise history, Minnesota is 34-26-1 (.566)
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).
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