TAMPA, Fla. - Chalk it up to youthful exuberance and, if you're going to gesture to an opposing player, the two-fingered peace sign is among the most respectable signs available. But during this year’s Super Bowl, the refs didn’t see it that way.
Let's go back to Raymond James Stadium in early February.
The Buccaneers were closing out the Kansas City Chiefs in the 4th quarter. As time was running down to the Bucs’ 31-9 win, rookie defensive back Antoine Winfield, Jr. flashed the peace sign toward Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill.
Hill sees it. So do the officials. So does the international audience of billions.
"It was just in the moment," said Winfield. "Probably won't see that anymore."
The officials ruled that Winfield, Jr. was taunting Hill and flagged the Bucs 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The seemingly harmless gesture mimicked the one Tyreek Hill flashed at the Bucs’ secondary when he scorched them for three touchdowns and 269 yards in the Chiefs’ regular-season win at Tampa on November 29.
The emotion of that humbling loss stayed with Winfield, Jr. right up to the Super Bowl game.
"For me, I feel like I was just tired of seeing highlights of the first game," Winfield recalled. "We [saw] that the whole week leading up to the Super Bowl. So, it was just like in the back of my head. When that moment came up, it just happened to be the perfect time and I just ended up doing it."
Fortunately, the peace sign is an acceptable method of greeting others. Antoine Winfield, Jr. gets saluted everywhere he's recognized.
"Grocery store, gas station," Winfield says of the places people flash him the peace sign. "Everywhere. Someone will come up to me just like this. I get it a lot."
It's a nice reminder of the time the Bucs conquered the world. But Antoine Winfield, Jr. is now in the quest of a second title and that means forgetting the previous one.
"My mindset is, I'm not a Super Bowl champion anymore," Winfield said. "I'm focusing on the next one."