Bucs’ Antoine Winfield Jr. named AP first-team All-Pro

TAMPA — Forget the Pro Bowl. Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr. was finally recognized as one of the two best players at his position in the NFL on Friday.

Winfield, who was snubbed for the NFL’s all-star team, was named to the All-Pro first team by the Associated Press. Receiver Mike Evans was awarded a second-team All-Pro designation from a national delegation of 50 media members.

“It’s a blessing. The safeties had an incredible year,” Winfield said after practice Friday. “ (Baltimore’s) Kyle Hamilton and (Atlanta’s) Jessie Bates, they had great years. It’s just an honor to, you know, be named first-team All-Pro because that is some great competition right there.”

Hamilton made first team with Winfield; Bates was second team.

This honor comes a day after Winfield was named the league’s NFC Defensive Player of the Month. He has 122 tackles (including six for loss), 12 passes defensed, eight quarterback hits, six sacks, six forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and three interceptions.

In fact, he leads the league in forced fumbles and fumble recoveries. Among defensive backs, Winfield is first in sacks, first in fumbles, first in fumble recoveries and tied for third in takeaways (seven).

“I just want to be better than I was last year in every category,” Winfield said earlier this season. “That’s going to be my goal every year.”

It was Winfield’s forced fumble at the goal line that prevented a touchdown and resulted in a touchback in the Bucs’ 9-0 win at Carolina last Sunday that clinched the NFC South title.

“That’s the thing about (Winfield). Since I’ve been here, he’s not going to stop until that whistle blows‚” linebacker Devin White said after the Panthers game. “Just thankful to have a safety like him that doesn’t give up.”

Winfield has filled up every stat column and been utilized by Todd Bowles in a way he can affect the game at all three levels.

Evans, a 2023 Pro Bowl selection, is tied for the NFL lead with 13 touchdown receptions and has the ninth-most receiving yards with 1,255.

Times staff writer Kristie Ackert contributed to this report.

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