Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea will look for another career day against Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in the 2021 kickoff.
Vea had his way with Prescott the last time the two met on a football field in 2018, months after the Bucs took Vea in the first round of the draft. The Bucs pass rusher pressured Prescott six times, a career-high for Vea, in a 27-20 loss to the Cowboys per Pro Football Focus Buccaneers.
Prescott finished that 2018 game against the Bucs with 161 yards passing for a touchdown plus only two yards rushing. This fall, Prescott will play his first game since a severe ankle injury ended his season in 2020.
Besides Vea, the Bucs have continuity on defense with all 11 starters back from the Super Bowl. The Bucs will likely have a full Raymond James Stadium crowd behind them as the franchise plans to get fans back in the stands this fall.
Vea hasn’t dropped any trash talk on social media about facing Prescott and the Cowboys again, but another Bucs teammate has. Quarterback Tom Brady did so with an Instagram post that took off.
Tampa hosts “America’s Team” in the NFL Kickoff Game on Sept. 9.
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Talking With His Pads
Vea has a recent history of success against mobile quarterbacks such as Prescott.
He helped the Bucs pass rush shut-down Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl. Mahomes mustered 270 yards passing, 33 yards rushing, and no touchdowns.
Vea notably got to Mahomes on a third-down early in the game per WFLA’s Dan Lucas.
Vea had a tackle in the Super Bowl amid 31 snaps, his second game back from an ankle injury the sidelined him from Week 5 through the end of the regular season. In the first five games of 2020, he had 10 tackles and two sacks.
“The day we found out he was going to come back and play, it was a very big day for all of us,” Licht said in an April 1 press conference. “Very exciting day — coaches, scouts, players, owners, everybody. We were all very excited.”
Journey Back With Big Reward
Vea kept believing he would play again in the 2020 season despite the severity of the ankle injury he endured at Chicago.
“Obviously I was down and out that night, but I think that night I told myself ‘if you just push through this, you push through rehab, you might have a chance,'” Vea told reporters during Super Bowl week. “They told me I had like a small chance of making it, so I took those chances of what they said, and I really took it to heart.”
The Bucs awarded Vea after the season by picking up his fifth-year option on April 26, worth $7.638 million per Sport Trac. Bucs general manager Jason Licht announced plans to exercise Vea’s fifth-year option during an April 1 press conference.
“He plays a very pivotal role in our defense. When he’s in there, a lot of things happen for not just him, but everybody else around him,” Licht said.