Tom Brady was a given and Lavonte David has worn a "C" on his chest for nearly a decade but there will be one new Tampa Bay Buccaneer with access to the captains' lounge in 2022: fifth-year defensive lineman Vita Vea
Buccaneer players voted for their 2022 team captains on Monday and came back with four returning leaders plus Vea in his first time in the role. The captains will be Tom Brady and wide receiver Mike Evans on offense, plus Vea and linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White on defense. The Buccaneers will hold a sixth spot open for the moment, eventually choosing a captain for special teams.
Even if four of those five captains have served in the role before, it is still an honor to be elected by a vote of teammates.
"Well, the players vote on it, so that's a plus and that's a feather in those guys' cap," said Head Coach Todd Bowles, who announced the captains on Monday after the team's Week One bonus practice. "To have the respect of the players is more important than anything else. When your peers vote on you being a captain, it means a lot for them."
Vea is getting that experience for the first time as he heads into his fifth season, and Bowles said it was well-deserved.
"Vita got a lot of votes," Bowles revealed. "He prepared very well, he had a good offseason, he came back in shape, he shed some weight. He's been leading the film room charges and he's become a leader on this team. I think that speaks a lot about him."
White has now been a captain in three of his first four seasons with the team. Vea grew into that role more gradually but has definitely captured the respect of his teammates.
"I think he's just been a guy that's been really consistent," said White of Vea. "Even when he was hurt [in 2020], he was still around the building. He's always going to be that guy that you can lean on when it's time. I think that was the thing that got Vita over the edge. Everybody sees it. Everybody wants to play with a guy like him, everybody respects a guy like him and respects what he does on the field as well."
White and David make an interesting pair of captains in the middle of the defense as the former is perhaps the team's most talkative player on the field while David is more a leader by example. Vea makes some noise during games, too, but not quite in the same manner as White.
"He don't get mad," said White with a laugh. "I've never heard him cuss on the field. He's always joking with the other team. I tell him he's too nice to be so big, like a teddy bear. He's a positive leader. Even when something's going bad he's going to put a smile on his face."
As for White, his continuing role as a captain is a sign to him that his teammates see his passion for the craft and all the work he puts in.
"It just shows that I come out here and work hard and try to be a leader with my play and my mouth, obviously – get the guys fired up and let them know they can count on me," he said.
Brady, who was signed in March of 2020 and was holding up his seventh Lombardi Trophy less than a year later, was named a Buccaneers team captain before he played a single snap for the team. That was unsurprising given his incredible NFL legacy and has obvious role as a leader, and it is even less surprising that he has now been given the captaincy for the third year in a row.
Evans first got the captain's jersey in 2017, his fourth year in the NFL, and has now been voted into that role for six straight seasons. At this point, he is one of the most accomplished players in franchise history, standing as the all-time leader in touchdowns and virtually every receiving category. He is also the only player in NFL annals to begin his career with eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, a streak that is ongoing heading into 2022.
David is the longest-tenured player on the Bucs' roster, having joined the team as a second-round draft pick in 2012, and he is also its longest-running captain. This is the ninth straight season that David's teammates have voted him in as a captain.
The Buccaneers' special teams captains the past two years were punter Bradley Pinion and linebacker Kevin Minter, neither of whom is still with the team. With a lot of new players in key special teams role, the Buccaneers will see how that part of the team shapes up before voting on their final captain.