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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Next Step for Vita Vea, Devin White: All-Pro

Getting their first career Pro Bowl selections was a significant honor for Buc defenders Vita Vea and Devin White, but both have larger goals, both individually and for the team

Vea:White story

Vita Vea was selected for his first Pro Bowl after the 2021 season, his fourth in the NFL, and he didn't take the honor lightly. That said, he's got even bigger goals in mind.

"Something like this is real special because a lot of guys their whole careers and don't get to attend one of these," said Vea during a pre-Pro Bowl practice last week. "So it's definitely an honor to be here. It's definitely big to get recognized on this platform, this stage, especially with so much talent in the NFL, so many people that play my position who do just as good if not better than I do."

There were originally 88 players voted into this year's Pro Bowl, and 25 alternates were eventually added to make up for all-stars who couldn't play due to injuries, ongoing playoff commitments or, in Tom Brady's specific case, retirement. There are roughly 1,700 players on NFL rosters at any given moment during the regular season, and a few hundred more when one includes those on injured reserve and other lists. So a Pro Bowl selection is something like a one-in-20 honor, which is significant, and clearly meaningful to Vea. There's an even more satisfying combination out there, however: earn Associated Press All-Pro honors and miss the Pro Bowl entirely while preparing for another Super Bowl.

"Try to get All-Pro," said Vea of the next step in his career. "That's the next one. I love coming here but I'd rather be in the Super Bowl. I'm bummed out we're not in that but I'm happy we're here."

Vea's fellow Tampa Bay Buccaneers defender, inside linebacker Devin White, also made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2021, his third season in the league. Originally noted as a first alternate for the game, White got a call from a Bucs staffer two days after the team's loss to the Rams in the Divisional Round asking him if he wanted to go to Vegas. White's response: "Damn right. I deserve to be there, even though I want to be in L.A."

Los Angeles, of course, is the site for Super Bowl LVI this coming Sunday, and all of the Buccaneers obviously preferred to be fighting for a second consecutive championship that night. Still, the Pro Bowl selection is a nice bit of recognition for the nine Bucs who got it – tying a team record for the most all-stars in a single season – and, White believes, only the first of many for him.

"I feel like as long as I can be consistent each year I feel like I'll always be a first or second-team All-Pro, likely the first because I'm going to turn it up a notch. I'm working on my game this offseason. And I'll be voted into a lot of Pro Bowls for the rest of my seasons."

Both Vea and White have already received a handful of AP All-Pro votes, the former in 2019 and 2021 and the latter over the past two seasons. White got the biggest chunk of votes in 2020 with 16, which was enough to make him a second-team All-Pro along with fellow Bucs linebacker Lavonte David. White's vote total went down to one this season, most likely because some of his more gaudy statistics – most notably 9.0 sacks – were down in 2021. He doesn't expect that to be an issue in 2022, as he says the next level of his game will be more splash plays.

"Just making game-changing plays for the team," said White. "That's what I know I'm capable of and I can be put in a position to do it. I talked to [Defensive Coordinator] Todd [Bowles] a lot already this offseason about ways that I can be used even more. Last year, we had a lot of guys hurt so I had to compensate for those guys, couldn't do as much, but this year we're all-in."

Four of the Bucs' nine Pro Bowl selections this year were on defense, with Vea joined by outside linebacker Shaq Barrett up front and safety Antoine Winfield patrolling the backfield (and contributing to the pick party in the actual game). That's a lot of talent for a defense to begin with, especially since it doesn't even account for some other standout performers like the ever-underappreciated Lavonte David. Vea said the future is "definitely bright" for the Bucs' defense, and White wholeheartedly agreed.

"This defense is definitely going up a level next year," said White. "Starting off with me and Lavonte, we're the big dogs. We're going to run things. Me and him have been talking and preparing a great mindset to come into training camp this year having everybody on the same page. We'll be in the building working our butts off and everybody else will follow along."

Though he didn't play in the game, and hasn't since the mid-2000s, Brady set an all-time NFL record this year with his 15th Pro Bowl selection. That's more all-star invites than the Bucs' other eight 2021 Pro Bowlers have combined, and six of those eight were going for the first time. That includes Vea and White, but they both figure that getting that first Pro Bowl call is only the beginning.

"Next year, Pro Bowl won't mean nothing," said White. "Yeah, we've got Pro Bowl-caliber players but it's a new year. You've got to go out and chase it again. We're definitely going to be ready."

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