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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Antoine Winfield Jr.: "I'm Never Satisfied"

After a monster 2023 season helped him land the most lucrative contract ever for a safety, Antoine Winfield Jr. only plans to get better, with the ultimate goal being another Super Bowl championship


For some authors, an early-career masterpiece ends up as the only notable entry in their bibliography. For others, it is an announcement of much more mastery to come. Harper Lee never again matched the brilliant "To Kill A Mockingbird," for example. Ernest Hemingway, in contrast, was just getting started with "The Sun Also Rises."

Antoine Winfield Jr. doesn't think he's authored his best work yet.

Make no mistake, Winfield's 2023 season was a masterpiece. With 122 tackles, 6.0 sacks, eight quarterback hits, three interceptions, 12 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries, he put numbers together in a way the NFL hadn't seen before. Since data in all these categories began being tracked regularly in 1999, Winfield was the first player to combine 100-plus tackles with at least three of each of the following: interceptions, sacks, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries. Since 2000, no other defensive back had combined at least seven takeaways with at least five sacks.

That all of this came in a contract year was a nice bit of timing for Winfield, though he had done plenty in his first three seasons to demonstrate that 2023 was no fluke. Set to hit free agency, Winfield first got the franchise tag from the Buccaneers, and then in May the two sides were able to get to the desired end result with a lucrative four-year extension that runs through the 2027 season. Winfield doesn't plan on 2023 being the peak of his career.

"I'm the type of person, I'm never satisfied," he said. "My goal every season is to [be] better than I was the previous season. Like [Safeties] Coach [Nick] Rapone always says, 'To much is given, much is expected.' I know that coming in, I'm going to be better than I was before. I'm going to train harder than I was before. Something that is also big for me is just learning something new every single day because there is so much to learn in this sport and so many ways that I can improve my game. I'm just excited to be given the opportunity here in Tampa. I've still got that fire in me, and I don't see it going away at any time."

To be clear, Winfield is definitely satisfied with his new deal, which took a little while to get done but kept him in the place he says he always wanted to be. Winfield is now the highest-paid safety in the NFL, which was a goal of his coming into the offseason, but he's also the highest-paid defensive back in the league. That's the first time ever that a safety could make that claim instead of a quarterback.

"You know, my goal coming in was to be the highest-paid safety," said Winfield with a wide smile. "I want to clear that up. And when my agent called me and went over the details, I was just like, 'Wow.'"

The Bucs overlooked the typical positional hierarchy in paying Winfield like a premier cornerback for the obvious reason – his across-the-board playmaking and field-spanning versatility make his technical spot on the depth chart irrelevant. Winfield got his big deal because he simply makes plays. He's a unique force on defense that the Bucs couldn't dream of letting go. And he only plans on getting better.

"You learn every year, and I feel like the more years I'm getting underneath my belt, I learn more things about myself and about my game," he said. "I feel like the best thing for me is just manifesting it, you know, seeing it before it happens. I mean, you've got to have that vision first, and then you've got to have a plan and put the work in for that to actually come to fruition. So, it's extremely important and it's something that I just kind of incorporated into my game over time."

Winfield said he couldn't quite explain how it felt to realize his goal of landing a life-changing contract. But he did know that it wouldn't change his approach to his craft.

"The same thing I've been doing the entirety of my football career – just getting better," said Winfield of what his approach would be to the 2024 season now that the contract issue is resolved. "That's in various different aspects of my game because there's so much to learn, like I said before. Even creating better study habits, doing the same DB drills and stuff that I always do, but really just keying in on taking the ball away. That's what gets you paid – being able to take that ball away because ultimately it results in giving the offense more opportunities with the ball and for us to win games. That's just my goal – to create takeaways for this team."

View the top pictures of Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. from his career thus far.

Statistically, Winfield set the bar awfully high in 2023. Other than 10 total takeaways, whether they be interceptions or fumbles forced and recovered, he doesn't have specific statistical goals for any given season. But Hemingway still had "A Farewell to Arms" and much more in him after his early success, and Winfield, who won a Super Bowl in his rookie season, plans to follow up in the biggest way possible.

"Oh, new goals? Super Bowl," he said. "I want another Super Bowl. Super Bowl two and then [we'll] go from there."

Jason Licht (JL): "I always try to figure out what to say here at these. We've had quite a few of them here this offseason, but this one is no different than the ones we've had. It's a special day to have Antoine extended here for – I just told him in my office – hopefully for the rest of my career here. To a player who has got a historic contract – he deserves it. He's done historic things already in a very short career, so we're super excited about having him [and] we're looking forward to even bigger and better things."

(Opening Statement)

Antoine Winfield Jr. (AWJ): "First and foremost, you know, I want to thank God for giving me this opportunity to just live my dream and to play football here in Tampa Bay. Once again, thank you to the Glazer family, to Jason and the front office, and everybody that has worked on this contract in some form just giving me the opportunity to, you know, just play football down here. You know, it's been my dream ever since I was a young kid, and to still be here, in Tampa Bay – the only place I really wanted to be at – it's a huge blessing and I really appreciate everybody that has worked on the contract. I want to say thank you to all my coaches along the way. From high school, I would say, on up for teaching me so many different things. I want to give a shout out to Coach [Todd] Bowles [and] Coach [Nick] Rapone for really teaching me a lot since I've been here these last four years. I leaned on those two guys a lot and they've taught me so much and have made me the player that I am today, so I want to say thank you to them. I also want to say thank you to all my teammates that I've played with over the last four years for making it possible for me to be here because, you know, I'm not the only one that's out on the field out there playing, so I want to say thank you to them. I also want to say thank you to my family, and to my fiancée for being my rock and holding everything down. I want to say thank you to my parents and my brothers for also being my support system throughout this whole thing. History – this deal right here is, you know, a dream come true. I had a vision going into this year and I manifested a lot of things. It's something that you have to see before it actually happens. I put the work in and I'm [going to] continue to put the work in. I feel like my best football hasn't even been displayed yet. I feel like that's coming down here towards the future. I'm just extremely grateful for this opportunity, just to play football down here, continue to live my dream, lead this team, and just allow more wins to happen down here, so I really appreciate the opportunity."

(On what it was like for Winfield Jr. to manifest his goals last season)

AWJ: "Extremely important. It's a step in the right direction. Every year, I just want to be better than I was the year before and that's my only goal. To make that happen and for everything to come to fruition as I envisioned it is just an amazing feeling. I don't really know how to explain it because it's kind of crazy looking at the video that I posted out there and coming back now, a year to that date, I'm like, 'Wow, I still can't believe that actually I accomplished that feat,' but I've still got more ahead of me."

(On when manifestation became a part of Winfield Jr.'s mental game)


(On if Winfield Jr. started manifesting during a specific time in his professional career)

AWJ: "I felt like it was something that I've done early on. Everybody has goals, and I would say it stems from having goals and just, you know, setting myself up that way. Starting in high school, 'Man, I want to go to the state championship, I want to be an all-state player.' It's just like seeing that and having that title, you know, above your name and things like that, so I feel like it kind of started with me at a young age."

(On how Winfield Jr. feels about not only being the highest paid safety, but also the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history)

(On the importance for Licht of going above and beyond for Winfield Jr. and making him the highest-paid defensive back)

JL: "You know, every negotiation is a little different. From the point where we were at to the point where we ended – it really wasn't a huge ask and when you have a player like Antoine who has done everything right from the minute we drafted him – he's been just a stellar teammate. You know, we've talked about this all offseason, the kind of guys we look for and Antoine's silhouette could be up there [in the draft room], as well, so you feel good about doing good things for great players, great teammates and great people for this organization."

(On if getting 10 takeaways is one of Winfield Jr.'s goals for next season)

AWJ: "Oh yeah, you know, that was something that was said in the video, too. I don't know if you watched it, but I said, 'I [have] get 10.' My goal was to get 10 takeaways, however they come, but yeah.'"

(On Winfield Jr.'s favorite play he made last season)

AWJ: "I would probably say the fumble in the back of the endzone versus Carolina, I would say. After watching that play, I was like, 'That was a play, I can't believe I made that.' But, you know, it all comes from just working hard, just fighting, and defending every blade of grass."

(On how often Winfield Jr. is amazed by his own playmaking abilities)

AWJ: "Yeah, I find myself having that reaction a lot, like, 'Wow, I can't believe that happened.' But I train like that, you know – I kind of put myself through those situations and then when it happens, it's like, 'Wow, I did it,' but it's because like I've worked and I've seen it already, and I've played it 1,000 times in my head. Even after practice, I'll get on the JUGS. I'm like a kid, a kid that's like shooting to make the buzzer beater shot… I'm playing in my head, 'OK, we're up three points, you know, this team has to get to this certain yard-line to kick a field goal to win a game. I'm in the middle of the field, and I'm breaking on the ball and I'm catching a ball. Boom, we win the game.' The more I visualize, and the more I work those scenarios, you know, it comes out and it happens in real life."

(On what Winfield Jr. remembers from his early childhood with his father)

AWJ: "I would say my first memory is playing football with my dad. Watching him play, you know, I grew up underneath him, and I always wanted to play in the league. It's always been a dream of mine and as early as I can remember, I would see him outside doing ladder drills, and I'm like, 'I [have] to get out here and get some work in with him,' and I'm young. I'm probably like five or six years old outside doing ladder drills – not sure what I'm really doing, but I'm out here following him, so I must be doing something right. He was coaching me, critiquing me, and making sure that I did everything the right way. I've came a long way since then, you know. He's helped me out through everything football-wise and just learning. He taught me a lot and he's one of the reasons why I'm here today. I really just lean on him and ask him all the questions. He [has] the blueprint. He did it already, you know, he played for 14 years, so I just kind of emulated everything that he did."

(On if Winfield Jr. remembers watching his father's film at a young age)

AWJ: "The one that I remember the most is when he played against Detroit. I remember he had the little DVD player and a little CD, and he was just sitting up, he had the film just sitting up in his bed, and I remember going up asking what he was doing, and he was just like, 'Yeah, I [have] Calvin Johnson this week, so we're trying to figure out how to stop him.' Then he was just going over like what he was supposed to do on certain plays and how he was supposed to shut him down. So, that's one of the earlier memories that I have."

(On if it was Winfield Jr.'s fiancée, Teesa Mpagi, who came up with idea to make a video about his goals)

AWJ: "It was her idea. You know, she was out there with me. I was doing some extra work. It was at a park, right down the street from my house. It was just at a park, in Tampa, and I was just out there doing some extra work. She picked up the camera and she was like, 'Say something to the camera.' And then I just started talking and, you know, those are the goals that I had in my mind and now we're here today and I accomplished those."

(On if Licht knew about the video and the goals that Winfield Jr. had manifested for himself)

JL: "I just told him and Teesa to start filming about how we're going to win Super Bowls here [laughs]."

(On Licht re-signing players that he drafted to second contracts and if that helps show the players that their hard work is rewarded)

JL: "Well, that's our goal. We drafted [Winfield Jr.] and the coaches developed him, and they did a great job. They've done a great job with all of our young players. When I say young, it's Antoine's age, and you know, 30 is young to me. They've done a great job with that and that's our goal. We're going to supplement the roster. I think I've said it from day one and I think every GM says it, too, in their initial press conference – you want to build the team through the draft and supplement it here and there in free agency. You want to reward your own and I think we've proven that – the Glazer family – we will reward our own. That's the goal."

(On how Winfield Jr. will continue to stay motivated even after earning his second contract)

(On what flashed through Winfield Jr.'s mind when signing the contract)

AWJ: "It's coming up soon right after this, but it's going to be crazy. I don't even know how to explain it but it's going to be a nice feeling."

(On what Winfield Jr.'s new goals are that he is trying to manifest)

AWJ: "Oh, new goals? Super Bowl. I want another Super Bowl. That was also a goal that I set in [the video], too. Super Bowl two and then [we'll] go from there."

(On Winfield Jr. having the opportunity to play alongside S Jordan Whitehead again)

AWJ: "I'm very excited. When I came in my rookie year, I played with him for a few years, and I was really leaning on him when I first got here. For him to be back… I mean, we had great chemistry when he was here and so we're just trying to build on that and improve that. We're both a little bit older, a little bit wiser and have more experience under our belts, so I can't wait to work with him and just go out there and ball."

(On Licht working to get a contract extension done with T Tristan Wirfs and trying to fit all of the pieces together under the salary cap)

JL: "Well, fortunately, Mike Greenberg and Jackie [Davidson], they've done a great job with this. They deserve their shout-outs. I mean, I'm not the one [who] is doing all of the legwork on that. I'm the one that gets to call him and tell him congratulations … or say yes or no, or not get phone calls from him for a little bit, but that's a whole other story [laughs]. I'm joking. It was a big puzzle this year of how to fit it all in. Hopefully we can finish this off."

(On what the phone call was like for Licht to Winfield Jr. offering him the contract)

JL: "It was a great phone call. [I told him] congratulations, and nobody has more gratitude than Antoine. He's grateful for everything and every opportunity. I remember that draft – it was during COVID – we couldn't do the visits, we couldn't do a lot of workouts. John [Spytek] and Mike [Biehl] did a lot of Zooms – I learned how to Zoom. But I do remember Antoine answering the question right, 'What's my goal? To win Super Bowls and then a gold jacket.' He got it in the right order."

(On if Winfield Jr.'s interview answer is what convinced Licht to draft him)

JL: "The play on the tape was pretty convincing, so we were fortunate to get him."

(On what Winfield Jr. is doing this offseason to prepare for the upcoming year)


(On Winfield Jr.'s father's reaction to the contract news)

AWJ: "He kind of just yelled the whole time. He was like, 'Yeahhh!' That's pretty much all he was doing was just yelling, but he was proud."

(On Winfield Jr.'s reaction to the phone call personally)

AWJ: "I was excited, you know. It's still surreal to me to be the highest paid defensive back in history. It's just a phenomenal feeling. I don't really know how to explain it. It still feels crazy today, which is why I'm always smiling. I was smiling before, but I'm really smiling now. It's been amazing."

(On if Winfield Jr. has a first purchase in mind and about the outfit he wore for the press conference)

AWJ: "I do not right now… I've got to shout out my fiancée – she's my stylist. She gets me right with the fits. I barely know what I have on [laughs]. I ask her if it's good and she's like, 'Yeah, it's good,' so I just put it on. Shout-out to her."

(On Winfield Jr. and T Tristan Wirfs coming from the same draft class and finding similar levels of success in their respective careers with Wirfs potentially being the next Buccaneers player to sign a long-term contract)

AWJ: "Oh yeah, I texted Tristan the other day like, 'It's coming bro, I already know it.' It's been amazing to play with him. Coming out of the same class, I feel like once we got in here, you know, we've both worked extremely hard. We both just wanted to come in here and just do great things. So far to this point, I feel like we've both had great careers and I hope that continues down the line as we continue to grow and lead this team."

(On Winfield Jr. taking the next step as a leader)

AWJ: "Just to continue to be myself and lead by example, obviously, but also bring up the guys with me to match my energy, match my work ethic and put that work in so we can ultimately get another Super Bowl."

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