TAMPA — It wasn’t until three weeks ago that Bucs head coach Bruce Arians realized there was a chance defensive tackle Vita Vea could return from a broken ankle he suffered during a Week 5 loss at Chicago.
“I saw him running in the pool and then on the Ultra G (anti-gravity machine), and it was like, ‘Hey, he’s getting close,’” Arians said. “Once I finally saw him outside running, I thought he wanted to play. That was the big thing. He wanted to come back. I said, ‘Hey, we’ll keep winning, you keep working and it will work out,’ and it has.”
Vea was designated to return from the injured list and returned to practice on Wednesday. The Bucs kept winning and are headed to the NFC Championship Game Sunday at Green Bay.
It would be a big boost for the Bucs if Vea is able to play, adding to a rushing defense that was first in the NFL again this season.
The Bucs had a very light, non-contact practice Wednesday, so it’s hard to evaluate where Vea is at.
“He walked real good, because that’s all we did,” Arians said. “We had a walk-through, because that was a real physical game last week and, you know, it’s that time of year we don’t need to be beating on each other. But we’ll see him move around more tomorrow. I’ve watched him run the last few weeks to get in shape, and he looks good.”