The bad news for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is very, very bad: Defensive lineman Vita Vea is headed to injured reserve, ending what was shaping up as a potential Pro Bowl season. Vea, who is at the heart of a Buccaneers defense that currently ranks fourth overall, second against the rush and seventh in points allowed, suffered what Head Coach Bruce Arians termed a broken leg during Thursday night’s 20-19 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Vea was injured while making a tackle for a loss of one yard on running back David Montgomery on what proved to be Chicago’s game-winning field goal drive in the fourth quarter. That was one of Vea’s three tackles in the game and he also recorded one of Tampa Bay’s three sacks. The Buccaneers held the Bears to 35 rushing yards, marking the third straight game in which they held an opponent below 50 yards on the ground. That’s the first time in franchise history a Buccaneers defense has accomplished that feat.
The loss of Vea comes one week after tight end O.J. Howard, another young player having perhaps his best season yet, suffered a season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon.
“It’ll be a big loss,” said Arians. “[When] you lose players like O.J. and Vita, you can plug the next man in, but they’re not the same. I hate it for him because he was having such a great year.”
Vea, a 350-pound force in the middle with incredible strength and nimble feat, was an integral part of the defense, often simply because the opposition had to use two blockers to keep him at bay. He finishes his third NFL season with 10 tackles, three tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and three quarterback hits.
“I don’t know if there was a better nose tackle out there.