Despite their 2 – 0 start, the Buccaneers have been battling early-season injuries, but they got good news on Thursday. In particular, mammoth rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea returned to the practice field for the first time, since injuring his calf in the first week of training camp in late July.
The former number 1 pick out of Washington was on the practice field with a helmet and shoulder pads during the time period that the media was allowed to view and film practice. There is eager anticipation on Vea being able to get in the lineup and be paired next to Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy on the Bucs defensive why.
Tampa Bay officially listed Vea as “limited” in Thursday’s workout, as they prepare for Monday night’s match-up with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The good news on the defensive side of the ball, has lockdown defensive back Brent Grimes also returned to practice for the Bucs Thursday. Grimes has missed the last two weeks after injuring his groin just before the opening game at New Orleans. He was also officially listed as limited by the team on their injury report.
Grimes will be counted on even more heavily now that the Bucs have lost another starting Corner in Vernon Hargreaves, who’s out for the season with a shoulder injury. Last week, Tampa Bay played a mix of rookies and a veteran, whom they had just picked up during the week.
Second round picks M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis played significantly in last Sunday’s 27 – 21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Tampa Bay was also forced to use veteran free agent Marcus Williams for a couple of series, who they had picked up off of waivers during the game onSunday. Third-year veteran Ryan Smith played significantly, as well in the game and will also be counted on moving forward.
The Bucs also listed QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week back to back to start the season, is also on the injury report with a knee, but he was able to practice.
Also, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is battling a knee injury and was not able to work out on Thursday. Pierre-Paul hurt the knee in New Orleans, but played that entire game and all of the Philadelphia game.
Injury concerns for Bucs RB Jones and WR Evans
The start of fourth week of training camp has a couple of concerns for Buccaneers offensive stars, receiver Mike Evans and running back, Ronald Jones.
Neither player participated in the Bucs latest workout Monday, and now there’s some doubt as to whether either will play in Friday night’s third preseason game with the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium?
The Bucs are not required by the NFL to give any update on injuries at this point, unless they choose to, but head coach Bruce Arians provided a brief one after practice.
“Ronald’s knee swelled up a little bit and just trying to take it day to day with him. Mike tweaked yesterday…it’s nothing serious.”
Traditionally, the third preseason game is the final time where starters for the regular season play significantly.
When asked if both would be held out Friday night, Arians briefly said:
“We’ll see how it is. We still got a few more days. I think Ronald’s gonna be ok. I’m not sure about Mike.”
First, on Evans, the Pro Bowl wide receiver from a year ago pulled up on a pass drill Sunday during practice and although the Bucs aren’t saying anything, there’s concern that he may have sustained a hamstring injury of some type. Tampa Bay is heavily counting on Evans to be their go-to weapon, especially on third down. A year ago he caught for 1,524 yards and a career high 17.7 avg with 8 TDs.
Evans previously dealt with a hamstring injury in the 2015 preseason and missed the season opener with Tennessee but returned the following week.
As for Jones, he appeared to have suffered some kind of left knee hyper-extension returning the opening kickoff on a rain-slicked turf against the Dolphins Friday night. That’s what can be seen this photo on social media from Tampa Bay sports reporter Kevin O’Donnell showing Jones knee clearly in an awkward spot when he planted.
Wondering why #Bucs runningback Ronald Jones knee is sore? This is the opening kickoff Friday night against the Dolphins. Rojo didn’t practice yesterday. Looks like a hyperextension to me. pic.twitter.com/mVmW86E96x
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) August 19, 2019
Jones did carry the ball twice for 7 yards leader in the first quarter of the game before being shut down for the night.
Jones has been one of the standouts of the Bucs offseason and training camp with glowing updates repeatedly from Arians about his progress and his chances of seeing significant playing time. Jones missed three games with a hamstring injury in a disappointing rookie year.
Now, we wait to see how long he and Evans will be out.
Positive injury update news for Bucs DT Vita Vea
Bucs coach Bruce Arians gave another positive update Sunday on one of his star defensive players he’s counting on to come back from injury. It looks like hulking defensive tackle Vita Vea is still on track to potentially play in the season opener September 8th.
After the Buccaneers Sunday morning training camp workout, Arians was asked, if there was any new news on Via resting and rehabbing the sprained ligament in his left knee? He told the media:
"Obviously, when you’re put in game-winning situations and your young players perform, you’re proud of them, and they did exactly that."
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) August 18, 2019
“He’s getting better and better everyday. No pain (in the knee). So, I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’s gonna be ready (opening day),” Arians said plainly.
The former first-round pick a year ago out of the University of Washington was injured almost two weeks ago in a one-on-one pass blocking drill, crumbling to the ground with the Bucs and their fans holding their breath. However it turns out it was only a sprain ligament that did not require surgery and Vea could still possibly play at the beginning of the regular season, including the opener with the 49ers.
Vea was seen walking on the sideline Friday night during the Bucs preseason game with the Dolphins with the aid of a heavily braced left knee.
This is the second straight training camp that Vea has been sidelined with a significant injury. Last year, he suffered a torn calf muscle on the second day of workouts and missed all of the preseason and the first three games of the regular season recovering from the injury and getting into playing shape.
When he did comeback, Vea came on strong in the second half of the season and began to show signs of promise, as to why the Bucs had picked him in the top 15 of the draft. He had a career high nine tackles in a December game in Baltimore and was all over the line of scrimmage and the backfield causing disruptions.
Then, in Dallas the following week, he was once again making plays early in the game. Although, he had a first-half sack Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott nullified by a face mask penalty, he got another one that counted by blindsiding Prescott on the final play of the first half.
Vea finished with three tackles, the sack and one tackle for loss in that game. And, in the second half of the season, he ended up with 28 tackles with three sacks and five tackles for loss in eight games.
Vea is being heavily counted on to help the interior of the Bucs defensive line in new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3 – 4 defense. He along with new free agent pro bowl veteran Ndamukong Suh are going to be the guys relied upon to get pressure up the middle for the defense.