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Oh captain, my captain: Vita Vea’s path to Buccaneers captaincy

The Buccaneers elected their 2022 team captains and a former Buc may be to thank.

NFL: AUG 05 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is Vita Vea’s first season fresh off his four year contract extension and he’s taking on a new role. Vea was voted as a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team captain for the first time in his NFL career. He was one of three defensive captains that were elected, alongside the familiar faces of Devin White and Lavonte David. At 27 years old, Vea is entering his fifth year in the league and though he has never clogged up the stat sheet, his size and power have consistently clogged up the middle of the field.

Vea’s impact is often more easily seen through the performance of others. Every season that he has been a full time starter, the Buccaneers have been a top three run defense in yards allowed. The Buccaneers’ run defense has even become so famed that, in the last two seasons, teams have just abandoned the run altogether. The Bucs have been run on less than any other team in the National Football League since 2020, by a wide margin.

The impact of the 347-pound nose tackle isn’t only felt against the run. Two years ago Vea sustained what was thought to be a season ending injury in Week 5 at Soldier Field against the Bears. The prognosis was bleak, if the team could keep their season alive into late January or early February maybe Vea could get back on the field. This injury put the effect of his presence on the pass rush in full display. In Tampa’s 2020 playoff run the team played half of their postseason games without Vita, and then half with him. Against the Washington Football Team and New Orleans Saints with no Vita Vea, the Buccaneers defense tallied two sacks. The following weeks against the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, the Bucs defense exploded with 8 sacks including a legendary performance in the Super Bowl against one of the most explosive offenses of all time.

So Vea has been excellent. Why did it take this long to become captain?

NFL: Super Bowl LV-Champion Tampa Bay Buccanners Boat Parade Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers may need to send a thank you card to Ndamukong Suh. Suh and Vea played beside each other for the last three seasons. Say what you want about Suh’s career but he has been producing in the NFL for more than a decade, you don’t last in any occupation that long without being a professional. There is something to be said for having a talented young player come in and work with a veteran at their same position. Bucs fans have seen a very similar dynamic in the receiver room with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, even dating back to Vincent Jackson and the former before that. Suh was never voted a team captain but sometimes a player doesn’t need to be a captain in order to be a leader. He can simply set an example for younger players in how he works in meeting rooms and conducts himself in the locker room.

Vita Vea being chosen by his teammates to be a captain is a great sign for the Buccaneers, having invested in him. It shows the level of respect he has garnered amongst his peers and is a sign of budding maturity from a young rising star.