Buccaneers activate DT Vita Vea to face Aaron Rodgers, Packers in NFC championship

Cassandra Negley
·Writer
·2 min read

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers activated Vita Vea from injured reserve and will have one of the league’s best defensive tackles back for the NFC championship game, the team announced Friday.

Vea will be available for Sunday’s game at the Green Bay Packers. He is coming off an ankle fracture suffered against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 8 that initially ruled him out for the season.

He returned to practice earlier this week and it was expected he would be activated for the conference title game. He made “significant progress” in December, the Buccaneers team writer Scott Smith said, and was able to return as the Buccaneers kept extending their season.

Vea one of best defensive players in NFL

Vea, 25, is the No. 2-ranked interior defender in the NFL behind Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald, per Pro Football Focus.

He was on pace for a career year before the injury with two sacks and 10 tackles through five games. He had three tackles for loss and three QB hits.

In the two seasons prior (21 starts in 24 games played) he had 5.5 sacks, 63 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 16 QB hits. He also has a touchdown on his 2019 stat sheet and the unofficial record of heaviest player in NFL history to score an offensive touchdown.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea (50) stretches his neck during an NFL football training camp practice Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea (50) stretches his neck during an NFL football training camp practice Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Buccaneers could use Vea vs. Aaron Rodgers

The Buccaneers have one of the top ranked defenses in the NFL. They allowed on average 5.8 yards per play, ranking seventh in the league per Pro Football Reference.

In the five games Vea was on the field, the defense allowed an average of 2.7 yards per carry. Without him, Tampa averaged 3.9, per NFL Next Gen Stats. The team’s pressure rate also dropped in his absence.

The Bucs are going against the league’s best offense in the Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is having an MVP-caliber season. His 48 touchdowns, 70.7 completion percentage and 84.3 quarterback rating lead the league. He has thrown only five interceptions all season while his offensive line has limited opponents to 20 total sacks.

Aaron Jones has 1,104 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground for a team averaging 4.8 yards per rushing attempt.

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