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Bucs’ Antoine Winfield Jr. adds to weekly accolades

What a week for the safety, named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday and a Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee Tuesday.
 
Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) speaks with linebacker J.J. Russell (51) during the win over Carolina at home on Sunday.
Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) speaks with linebacker J.J. Russell (51) during the win over Carolina at home on Sunday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Dec. 6, 2023|Updated Dec. 7, 2023

TAMPA — Antoine Winfield Jr. is always eyeing ways to improve at safety, and following where the quarterback is looking is often the best path to the football.

That was the case when Winfield broke on a pass from Carolina quarterback Bryce Young to receiver Adam Thielen, who had a step on cornerback Carlton Davis.

Winfield made the interception, preserving the Bucs’ 21-18 win over the Panthers on Sunday.

“I was reading the quarterback and I saw him scramble out and I took a peek to Thielen and I saw (Young) throw his hand up and tell him to go vertical and I was, ‘Oh, that’s where the ball is going.’ So I just broke on the ball and just made the play,” Winfield said.

“It‘s awesome. I put myself in that scenario a lot. Even when I’m doing ball drills, I’m thinking in my head, ‘Alright, fourth down, such-and-such, if I make this interception, we win the game.’ So I run that scenario in my head a lot. To actually have it happen, it’s just from working hard.”

Winfield finished with a sack and the interception against the Panthers to go with eight tackles, and on Wednesday he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week. This comes a day after he was announced as the Bucs’ nominee for Walter Payton Man of the Year honors thanks to his work with children in foster care.

Among defensive backs this season, Winfield is tied for first in sacks (3.0), tied for first in fumble recoveries (3), tied for second in forced fumbles (3) and tied for third in quarterback hits (5).

“It means a lot,” he said. “I put a lot of work in so it’s just paying off. For the Defensive Player of the Week, that was awesome. But the Walter Payton (Man of the Year Award), it’s even better. Being able to give back to the community and have that out there, it’s been amazing.”

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