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Bucs first-round pick Vita Vea could make his NFL debut Sunday at Chicago

Vea was ruled out last week after only one week of practice but has looked good enough in his recovery from a calf injury to possibly play at Chicago Sunday
Bucs defensive tackle Vita Vea (50) participates in a drill, along with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) during minicamp in June at One Buc Place. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
Bucs defensive tackle Vita Vea (50) participates in a drill, along with defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) during minicamp in June at One Buc Place. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Sep. 28, 2018|Updated Sep. 28, 2018

TAMPA — Bucs DT Vita Vea "does have a chance" to make his NFL debut Sunday at Chicago, coach Dirk Koetter said.

Vea, the first-round pick from Washington who missed seven weeks with a calf injury, returned to practice last week but did not play in the Monday night game against the Steelers.

It would be a welcome addition for the Bucs, who have been without three of their top four defensive tackles. In addition to Vea, starting DT Beau Allen is out with a foot injury he suffered against the Eagles, and the Bucs had to place DT Mitch Unrein on injured reserve at the start of the season.

The Bucs had planned to use a rotation of defensive linemen, but with the injuries, the starters have had to play more snaps than anticipated.

"I mean, when you've got guys out for an extended period of time, it just doesn't work out like the best-laid plans, but that's no excuse,'' Koetter said. "You've just got to move forward.''

The Bucs have been fortunate that DE William Gholston has versatility. Although he dropped 15 pounds in the offseason to improve his outside pass rush, Gholston was able to move to DT against the Steelers.

"No, thank goodness for that,'' Koetter said. "We've needed that. You expect you're going to lose three of your top four defensive tackles. It's crazy how injuries happen, how they come to one position. Again, thank goodness for Will's versatility, because he's gone in there and held his own.''

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