Bucs nose tackle Vita Vea had a remarkable ending to his fourth season in Tampa Bay last year. Not only did Vea finish with a career-high four sacks and his first Pro Bowl berth, but the team also rewarded him with a new contract extension. Vea’s new deal runs through 2026 and is worth an average of $17.75 million per year, according to OverTheCap.com.
Everything ended well for Vea last year — except the Bucs’ 30-27 playoff loss to the Rams. That defeat ended Tampa Bay’s hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champions.
Bucs NT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I think there is a lot to learn from the last two years, especially us being a young group,” Vea said. “We had a real young group when we won the Super Bowl and I think last year, we had some good experience losing in the playoffs – as weird as it sounds. I think it makes you more hungry when that happens. I think there is a lot to learn from that – losing and not being there [after] winning the year before. It’s just taking those little steps to get better every day.”
Vea Needs To Shed Some Weight
While Vea may be hungrier, he does need to shed a few pounds before the season. Although his exact weight isn’t known right now, one team source told Pewter Report he looks lighter than he did in OTAs last year.
Head coach Todd Bowles didn’t seem too concerned about Vea’s weight on Tuesday.
“Well, we haven’t weighed him yet,” Bowles said. “Obviously, it’s voluntary – we don’t go weighing everybody right now. Right now, I’m just happy he’s here. He’s here, he’s working and he always ends up where we want him to be come training camp time.”
Vea is listed at 347 pounds on the Bucs’ roster, which was his weight at the NFL Scouting Combine back in 2018. Who knows what he actually weighs now, or what his in-season weight usually is?
“I think you know we always strive to be better,” Vea said. “I think I’m happy where I’m at right now. Obviously, we don’t gotta be ready to play today. We’ve got a long time. So, it’s just one day at a time right now.”
Vea Showing Up To OTAs To Lead
Dressed in a t-shirt, a sweatshirt and a jersey, Vea likely dropped a few pounds on the first day of OTA practice. For Vea, it was important to be at the start of OTAs from a leadership standpoint, despite attendance being optional.
Bucs NT Vita Vea and DT Ndamukong Suh – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“On day one, it’s just one of those things that, you know, come in and be together as a group,” Vea said. “You know we have a real young group. We’ve got a couple young guys that we got to get together on the field and off the field. And get that comraderie going.”
One of those new, young players is rookie defensive tackle Logan Hall, who made a favorable first impression on Vea.
“He’s good,” Vea said. “This is our first day in. He showed some really good hustle – especially in the film room, watching some of his film. He’s good, [a] good young athletic guy. So, [I’m] expecting a lot from him this year.
“He is very explosive. He’s big, but an athletic-type of player. You always love that in a D-lineman.”
With the Bucs drafting Hall to apparently replace defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who is 35, the team is looking for Vea to become a leader. That comes with the territory of making the Pro Bowl and earning a lucrative contract. Vea is making his best effort to step up in Suh’s absence.
“Yeah, I don’t know, it feels kind of weird,” Vea said. “I like to play around a lot. [I] think I’ve just got to cut that down a little bit, and try to step into that leader role and try to take control.
“[I] feel pretty comfortable with it. I think we’ve got some other guys in our group who are older than me who also play that position. And I don’t think it’s all on me. I think as a collective group, I think we do a good job of working together of taking that leadership role when there needs to be leadership. I think that’s the best thing about it because we all call each other out about our B.S. So, it works out for us.”
Loss To Rams Made The Bucs Hungrier
Bucs NT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Bucs will need Vea to help lead the team past the Rams in the NFC. Los Angeles has beaten Tampa Bay three times over the last two years. This year, the two teams will square off at Raymond James Stadium once again in Week 9. Vea said that the latest loss to the Rams obviously stung.
“Yeah it did, it hurt a little bit,” Vea said. “I think anybody in that situation would hurt. I think it was a good learning point for all of us. And it was tough to get over. It was tough to watch any other playoff game.”
The road to the Super Bowl may go through the Rams again in the NFC. Vea said he and his teammates have an even greater hunger now after watching Los Angeles win Super Bowl LVI.
“There’s always a greater hunger,” Vea said. “I think every team comes in every year expecting to win. I think that’s the reason why we play is to win. If not, you shouldn’t be playing at all.”