Skip to main content

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Antoine Winfield Jr. Returns to Practice as Homecoming Nears

Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who appeared in practice on Monday after missing time in the preseason, is looking forward to the Bucs' first game back in Minnesota since he joined the team


After giving players three days off, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held a "bonus practice" on Monday to kick off the first week of the regular season. The return to action came with a welcome sight, as starting safety Antoine Winfield Jr. was back on the field for at least the portion of practice open to media after he had sat out roughly two weeks in the preseason with an unspecified injury.

"I feel good," said Winfield after a practice that lasted approximately 70 minutes. "Every day I'm getting better, so it felt great today."

The Buccaneers do not have to produce an official Week One injury report until after practice on Wednesday, so there is no official word on how likely Winfield is to be in uniform on Sunday, but his return to action Monday and positive thoughts afterward appear to be good signs. That's obviously good for the Buccaneers, who expect Winfield to be one of their primary playmakers on defense this season, but it's better news for the fourth-year safety. No player wants to miss the first game of the year, but that's especially true when that game doubles as a homecoming.

Winfield Jr. was born in Ohio in 1998, just before his father, Antoine Winfield Sr., embarked on a very successful 14-year career as a cornerback in the National Football League. That career began with the Buffalo Bills in 1999 but by 2003, around the time the younger Winfield could really begin to understand the game, it had shifted to Minnesota, as he signed with the Vikings as a highly-coveted free agent in 2004.

Winfield Sr. entered the NFL as a first-round draft pick, number 23 overall. Twenty-one years later, Winfield Jr. followed in his footsteps, going to the Buccaneers at the 45th selection, 13 picks into the second round. That necessitated a big move south, as Winfield Jr. had spent most of his childhood in Minnesota before choosing to stay close and play his college ball at the University of Minnesota.

Now, for the first time since he was drafted, Winfield will be playing football in his home state again. The last time the Buccaneers and Vikings faced off was in his rookie season, and it was in Tampa. The Buccaneers won that game, 26-14, kicking off an eight-game winning streak that lasted all the way through Super Bowl LV. Winfield delighted Buccaneers fans with 12 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in that Week 14 win over Minnesota.

This time, he'll be playing in front of a mostly hostile crowd, though he does expect to have a large contingent of family and friends in the stands, with the required Buccaneer gear on. He's looking forward to the experience.

"I grew up a Vikings fan, watching my dad play," said Winfield. "It's going to be special going up there."

The Buccaneers had high expectations in Winfield's rookie year after the arrival of Tom Brady. A glance at a handful of "power rankings" in the national media would suggest that's not the case in 2023 after Brady's retirement in January. Internally, though the Buccaneers still have lofty goals for this season, and with the offense undergoing a total scheme change, it may be up to the defense to get the team off to a good start. That includes a starting secondary that was largely built through a trio of DB-heavy drafts from 2018-20 (Winfield, Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean) plus the promising offseason addition of fourth-year safety Ryan Neal.

"It's great that I'm still able to play with Carlton and Dean, because those are the guys I came in with, so we've got years together," said Winfield. It's going to be an awesome year for all of us.

"[Playoffs are] the standard every year. That's our goal, make it to the playoffs and make our run. That's what we emphasize and that's what we try to do every year."

Here is the full Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2023 Roster.

Latest Headlines