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Bucs’ Vita Vea gets MRI, more tests on left knee today

Tampa Bay will be without at least three starters on defense in Friday’s preseason opener against the Steelers.

TAMPA — The news isn’t great for Bucs defensive tackle Vita Vea, who injured his left knee during a pass rush drill in Tuesday’s practice.

Vea underwent an MRI exam Tuesday night and will have additional testing the next few days while the swelling goes down. Coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday

"We did the MRI right away on Vita yesterday,'' Arians said. "A little fluid in there, a little swelling. So we’ll do another one Friday. There’s nothing really to report on what it is yet or how much timetable as far as return. We’ll know more after Friday. But the original prognosis was good.''

Video posted by Len Martez of 95.3 WDAE showed Vea getting locked up with right guard Alex Cappa and awkwardly falling to the ground. He appears to grab his left knee, but after being attended to by trainers, managed to walk off the practice field under his own power.

An MRI Tuesday night, however, revealed enough concern for the Bucs to want Vea to undergo further testing.

It’s a bad break for the Bucs, who are expecting big things from Vea in his second season. After being drafted 12th overall out of Washington in 2018, Vea suffered a calf strain during the first training camp practice in full pads. At the time, the Bucs did not believe the injury to be serious. But Vea would end up missing all four preseason games and did not return until Week 4 of the regular season.

It’s clear the Bucs expect Vea to miss some time. On Tuesday, they signed defensive tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, a seventh-round pick from Southern Cal in 2017.

Vea isn’t the only player who will miss Friday’s preseason opener in Pittsburgh. The Bucs already were going to be without outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, who hasn’t returned from an offseason neck injury suffered in a car accident, and inside linebacker Lavonte David, who had arthroscopic surgery on Sunday to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee.

The Bucs’ plan is to play Vea next to Ndamukong Suh, whom the Bucs signed as a free agent following the release of Gerald McCoy.

But with Vea’s knee injury, it may take some time before the Bucs are able to utilize that pairing.

“I don’t know anything about the injury, truthfully,” Suh said Tuesday. “It’s not my job. But I’m excited to play next to Vita. I think he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with, especially as you seem him grow into his second year and taking that second leap, which usually is most guys biggest leap in their career, being able to get more comfortable, even though he’s going into a new defense. He’s a fast learner. He communicates well. So I’m excited to play next to him as well.”

Arians said Vea would likely be replaced in the starting lineup with Beau Allen and Rakeem Nunez-Roches. "If there’s time missed game-wise, adjust and move on,'' Arians said of Vea’s injury.

Vea played in 13 games last season starting eight. He had three sacks and 28 tackles, including four tackles for loss and four quarterback hits.

Arians said Vea would likely be replaced in the starting lineup with Beau Allen. “If there’s time missed game-wise, adjust and move on.”