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Vita Vea will miss time in training camp after hand surgery

The Bucs defensive tackle underwent a procedure a couple weeks ago for an unspecified injury.

The Bucs could be without two of their top defensive players to start training camp.

Defensive tackle Vita Vea suffered an unspecified hand injury and had a minor surgical procedure a few weeks ago. He is expected to miss some time at the start of training camp, scheduled to begin July 28, but is not expected to have limitations once the regular season begins.

On Friday, outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul had arthroscopic knee surgery and will need three to four weeks to recover.

Vea, 25, anchored a run defense that ranked tops in the NFL last year, allowing an average 73.8 yards per game, playing next to veteran Ndamukong Suh. The Bucs’ first-round draft pick in 2018 had a career-high 35 tackles, 21/2 sacks, 12 quarterback hits and four tackles for loss.

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Vea also became the first player since J.J. Watt in 2014 to record a sack and catch a touchdown pass in the same game when he hauled in a 1-yard scoring toss from Jameis Winston in a 35-22 win at Atlanta. The 6-foot-4, 347-pound Vea is believed to be the heaviest player to catch a touchdown pass since 1950.

Vea was a fixture on defense, playing 749 snaps (66 percent). He also played 109 snaps on special teams (22 percent).

The Bucs don’t have much depth at defensive tackle. In addition to Suh, who is 33 and re-signed a one-year contract, Rakeem Nunez-Roches has the most experienced as a fifth-year pro who played 293 defensive snaps last season.

Defensive end Will Gholston also is capable of moving inside. The Bucs drafted Nebraska defensive tackle Khalil Davis in the sixth round this year. They also have Benning Potoa’e, an undrafted free agent and Vea’s former teammate at the University of Washington.

Pierre-Paul posted a video on Snapchat of him preparing to have arthroscopic surgery Friday to repair torn cartilage.

It is unusual for players to have elective surgery this close to the start of training camp, but Pierre-Paul was feeling discomfort in the knee while working out. Last season he missed the first six games with a cervical fracture in his neck that he suffered in one-car accident two months before training camp.

But Pierre-Paul was dominant when he returned, recording 81/2 sacks in 10 games.

Contact Rick Stroud at rstroud@tampabay.com or (727) 709-5982. Follow @NFLSTROUD.

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