The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could get a significant boost to their defensive line before the NFC Championship game next Sunday as defensive tackle Vita Vea is expected to start practicing again on Wednesday, according to Rick Stroud.

Vea fractured his right ankle in Week 5 on Thursday Night Football in the Bucs’ 20-19 loss to the Chicago Bears, and has been on injured reserve ever since. Vea, who is in his third-season with the Bucs, is considered to be Tampa Bay’s best interior defensive lineman due to his combination of size, quickness and power.

Even in the absence of Vea, the Bucs defense still led the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed with 80.6 yards per game, thanks in part to a defensive front led by Ndamukong Suh, Will Gholston, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Steve McLendon. While Nunez-Roches and McLendon have played well in replacement of Vea, but there’s no substitution for what he brings to the team up the middle.

If Vea is able to go for Sunday, it could be a game-changer for a Bucs’ defense that is coming off a four-turnover performance in their 30-20 win over the Saints in the divisional round of the postseason.

Vea had 10 tackles, two sacks and three quarterback hits in five games on the season before his injury.

The Bucs head to Lambeau Field for their next game against the Green Bay Packers at 3:05 on Sunday in the NFC Championship as they look to become the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl at their own stadium.

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About the Author: Matt Matera

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2 months ago

Unbelievable news. What a time to be a Bucs fan!

2 months ago

WOWZERS! That would be huge. Literally.