Vita Vea’s status remains uncertain as Bucs back Panthers’ run game

TAMPA — Two days into arguably the NFL’s most resuscitating rushing offense, the Bucs are still unsure whether their primary run-filling component will be available.

Nose tackle Vitavia, who has missed all but the past three games due to a calf injury, will be a game-time decision when they host the Panthers (6-9), 7-9, in Sunday’s crucial NFC South clash .

So will left tackle Donovan Smith (foot), cornerback Carlton Davis (shoulder) and outside linebacker Carl Nacib (chest), coach Todd Bowles said Friday. Vea and Smith are among the few players listed as questionable; Davis and Nassib are skeptical.

“(Smith and Via) practiced a little bit, but we’ll see,” Bowers said.

The Panthers have won four of their last six games and averaged 240 rushing yards in those four victories, coming off a 21-3 rout against the Charlotte Bucks on Oct. 23. Gained 173 yards.

The Buccaneers allowed 120.3 rushing yards a game, but they’ve given up just 88.8 yards in six games in which Vea and 352-pound veteran Akiem Hicks have played together. That average doesn’t include the 35-7 loss to the 49ers, when Vea played just four snaps.

“Oh, when they’re together, it’s been brilliant,” Powers said. “Obviously, it’s still good at times, just missing a few (runs) every now and then, but we want to have the full squad.”

Other players listed as questionable on Sunday included safety Mike Edwards (hamstring), cornerback Jamal Dean (toe), receiver Julio Jones (knee) and safety Antoine Winfield. (ankle).

“We’ll see you on Sunday,” Powers said. “But for the most part, everyone is moving in the right direction.”

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