Second-year defensive lineman Vita Vea left practice early on Tuesday and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wasted no time examining his injured knee. However, the Buccaneers are going to take a little more time before coming to any definitive conclusions.
"We did the MRI right away on Vea yesterday," said Head Coach Bruce Arians following Wednesday's practice. "[There is] a little fluid in there, a little swelling, so we'll do another one on Friday. There's nothing really to report on what it is yet, or how much [the] timetable [is] as far as [his] return. We'll know more on Friday. But the original prognosis was good. Other than that, good fast practice, ready to go hit somebody else."
Vea is the second starter from the middle of the defense that the Bucs have lost to a knee injury in the last week. Inside linebacker Lavonte David has missed four straight practices after undergoing a procedure to address a torn meniscus in his left knee. However, Arians emphasized on Wednesday that David's injury is not serious; he's obviously hoping the same will prove true of Vea.
"Well, Lavonte will be fine," said Arians. "Vita, we'll wait and see. If there's time missed game-wise we'll adjust and move on. But Lavonte will be fine."
Arians said that "two or three" players will pick up the slack while Vea is out of the lineup, mentioning Beau Allen and Rakeem Nunez-Roches by name. Vea is listed as the starting nose tackle on the Bucs' three-man line, flanked by Ndamukong Suh and Will Gholston.
In the immediate sense, Vea's absence won't cause much of a problem, as starters are not expected to play deep into the first couple preseason games anyway. What Vea and the Bucs would like to avoid is a repeat of last summer, when a quad injury sustained on the third day of camp led to a slow start for the 2018 first-round pick. Vea missed all of the preseason and the first three regular-season games and took some time to round into shape after returning to the field. Vea was much more impactful during the second half of the season and the Buccaneers would like to get 16 games of that player in 2019.
Vea obviously will not play in Friday night's game in Pittsburgh. He is one of 11 players on the current 90-man roster who will not travel with the team, according to Arians. The other 10 are David, cornerback Jamel Dean, linebacker Jack Cichy, safety D'Cota Dixon, outside linebacker Anthony Nelson, wide receivers Scotty Miller and K.J. Brent, tight end Scott Orndoff, quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and safety Justin Evans.
Dean, Nelson and Miller are all part of this year's draft class, and Dixon and Fitzgerald are also rookies still waiting for their first NFL game action. Fitzgerald is currently on the active/non-football injury list and Evans is on the active/physically unable to perform list. Neither has yet to practice in training camp.