Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea suffered a fractured ankle in Week 5 but he kept believing that he would be able to return before the season ends. Vea, the No. 12 pick of the 2018 NFL draft, gave his best to recover from.the injury as quickly as possible and he returned to the field in last week's NFC Championship Game.
Vea played 32 snaps in the NFC Championship Game as the Buccaneers beat the Green Bay Packers 31-26 at Lambeau Field. "Obviously, I was down and out that night, but I think that night I told myself, 'If you just push through this, push through rehab, you might have a chance,'" Vea said, per ESPN.
"They told me I might have a small chance of making it, so I took those chances of what they said, and I really took it to heart. That's what I stuck with." Vea insisted he knew he would return to the field before the season ends.
"I knew at the end of the day, I'd be back," Vea said. "I kept telling myself, 'I'll be back.' "
Vea was encouraged to keep believing
Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians kept telling Vea to keep working on his rehab and try to be ready for the latter stages of the playoffs.
"We'll keep winning and you keep working, and it will work out," Vea said of Arians' message to him. "That's always uplifting when you hear someone say that to you, and obviously when the head coach says that to you.
I think that was like our little thing to each other, every time we'd see each other, we'd look at each other like, 'Keep winning, I'll show up.' And I ended up being able to play last weekend, which was a huge blessing for me."
Buccaneers pass rusher Shaq Barrett acknowledged that having Vea back means a lot to the team. "Vita's a big impact," Barrett said. "We most definitely missed Vita. On the first sack, the quarterback was trying to go to where Vita was at but he couldn't because Vita was right there and he flushed him right to me, and it worked out perfectly.
Just from that, not even a run defense -- run defense, he's a real important piece in there -- wherever Vita's at, he's gonna take the gap next to him on both sides, and maybe one more gap, so we most definitely missed him in there." The Buccaneers are set to host the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.