Green Bay Packers get pass-rushers Za'Darius Smith, Whitney Mercilus back vs. San Francisco 49ers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Add Za'Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus to the list of players the Green Bay Packers will have back for Saturday night's NFC divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.

The veteran pass-rushers were activated off injured reserve on Friday, clearing them to return from lengthy absences. That came a day after the Packers did the same for receiver Randall Cobb.

Smith has not played since the regular season opener, when he aggravated a back injury that limited him throughout training camp. He played 18 snaps in that game and then underwent surgery. Mercilus tore the bicep in his left arm on Nov. 14 against the Seahawks.

Neither is expected to start and both likely will be on limited snap counts because of their lengthy absences.

Smith was expected to be one of the key players in new defensive coordinator Joe Barry's system this season. He was coming off back-to-back seasons with double-digit sacks, and his 26-sack total from the last two seasons combined ranked third in the NFL, behind only Aaron Donald and T.J. Watt. But the second-team All-Pro in 2020 missed most of training camp because of back issues, and after playing 18 snaps in the season opener, he underwent surgery and has not played since.

Mercilus, who was signed on Oct. 21 just days after he was released by the Texans, was once thought to be lost for the season in his fourth game with the Packers, but he made a surprising return to practice last week.

Their addition, even in limited roles, means the Packers have four proven veteran pass-rushers, including Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. The Packers released defensive tackle Jack Heflin and cornerback Isaac Yiadom, who both have been the team all season, to make room for Smith and Mercilus.

There are still questions about whether left tackle David Bakhtiari and cornerback Jaire Alexander will be available on Saturday. Both were listed as questionable on the injury report.

Bakhtiari missed more than a year with a torn ACL but returned for the regular-season finale at Detroit. He played the first 27 snaps of that game, and it was believed to be a precursor to him playing full-time when the playoffs started.

But Bakhtiari practiced only one day this week -- the second of three practices -- and was listed as questionable. Alexander hasn't played since his Week 4 shoulder injury. Both he and Bakhtiari are already on the 53-man roster, so no additional move needed to be made in order for them to play.