Heading into the 2024 NFL season, 31-year-old veteran edge rusher Preston Smith is the only player on the Packers roster in his 30s. It's a testament to both the amount of young talent that the Packers — a co-favorite in the NFC North along with the reigning champion Detroit Lions — have managed to accumulate over the last few years, as well as the prolonged prime of their elder statesman, and their heartbeat of the team.

“Preston is the heartbeat, man,” Packers edge rusher Rashan Gary said of Smith, per Matt Schneidman of The Athletic. “He’s going on 10 years. I’ve been with him my whole six years. Everybody feeds off him. When Preston talks, everybody be quiet and listen because when 10 years talk, he’s coming from experience and understanding. That’s what P brings, man.”

Elder statesman. Heartbeat. Refer to Preston Smith's continued impact on the Green Bay Packers however you please, but Smith himself will go ahead and make the often-used comparison to a fine wine that gets better with age.

“I’m like fine wine. I’m getting better with age, as we can see, and I’m just happy to be here … I really be thinking I’m 29 and 28 sometimes. I feel like I’m aging backwards, but when y’all keep reminding me I’m in my 30s, I start to really feel old.”

Preston Smith's NFL journey began back in 2015 as a 2nd round pick of Washington after a successful four-year career at Mississippi State. Smith spent the first four seasons of his career in Washington, before getting his first big payday with the Packers in 2019. Smith signed a four-year deal worth $52 million, and has been a mainstay on the Packers defense ever since. And in his mind, there are no signs of slowing down.

“I still feel like I got so much ball left in me. I feel like I got a lot of gas left in the tank and I still have an opportunity to make big plays and play for a long time in this league.”

Green Bay Packers linebacker Preston Smith (91) celebrates forcing a fumble by Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jaren Hall (16) on a first half sack during their football game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
© Dan Powers-USA TODAY Sports

Preston Smith and the Green Bay Packers defense 

While Preston Smith has never made a Pro Bowl or an All-Pro team, his greatest quality as an NFL starter has been his consistency. From the time Smith walked into the NFL as a 22-year-old until now, he's never seen a serious dip in production and he's missed only one game in his career. And now, as he enters his 10th NFL season, he's playing with a Packers defense that could be among the ten best units in the league in 2024 under first year defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley, who will be taking the place of Joe Barry.

Along with Smith, the Packers will send veterans Rashan Gary, Jaire Alexander, Kenny Clark, and newly acquired cornerback Xavier McKinney out onto the field each week as Green Bay attempts to return to their seat atop the NFC North.