Patriots

Butler benching impacted legacies. How does it alter future?

Butler benching impacted legacies. How does it alter future?

MINNEAPOLIS -- Malcolm Butler's career as a Patriot is bookended by two indelible images. 

Staggering from the field near the end of Super Bowl 49 in February 2015, supported by teammates, tears streaming,  processing what he'd done to change NFL history with the most improbable play a Super Bowl's ever seen. 

And February 2018, standing on the sidelines before SB52 even began, tears streaming down his face, teammates again on either side of Butler as he was perhaps realizing he wasn't going to see the field at all. 

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And that, too, puts Butler at the center of NFL history. 

I still don't think it's hyperbolic to say that, if Butler played against the Eagles, the Patriots would have won. 

And that win would have put them eyeball-to-eyeball with the Steelers in all-time Super Bowls. It would have been the second time that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick had won three in four years and the second time they'd won back-to-back. 

Butler not playing is a part of NFL lore now, right there with Max McGee's hungover heroics in SB1 and Barrett Robbins going AWOL before SB37. 

What happened? We're working on it. But it may turn out to be a "last straw" violation that landed Butler on the bench as opposed to one act of insubordination or stupidity. As colleague Mike Giardi said:

Butler's a good kid but he's routinely run afoul of rules since high school. 

How does an SEC-level talent end up having to matriculate at West Alabama after getting kicked out of Hinds Community College? Decisions. 

Remember Butler wasn't allowed to participate on the field in the 2015 minicamp because he missed a flight and showed up late?

Remember the Twitter "like" of a post earlier this year that was critical of the Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia's plan?

Remember the arm-waving and foot-stomping he'd do if he felt a teammate blew a coverage?

How many little things have there been? Who really knows?

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The Patriots wanted Butler to be their shutdown corner replacement for Darrelle Revis, and in 2015 he kind of was. 

But they kept slow-playing his payday and he kept doing a slow burn. Finally, last offseason, after generous but somewhat incentive-laden deals were turned down, they spent $65 million on Stephon Gilmore. 

That sealed Butler's future here. He good-soldiered it as long and as well as he could. He continued to be a well-liked teammate. 

But would it surprise anyone if a little bitterness and senioritis crept in and Butler became a little more cavalier about doing what he was told?

Which is why we should slow-play the full reaction until we know the full story. 

Rumors are circulating on this Monday of meltdowns, missed curfews, perhaps a missed flight and maybe more. 

You've seen them and so have I and this is where I kind of get it with Belichick. Though it's not what I'm looking for as a reporter, I can see why he'd rather obfuscate then say, "Malcolm did X, Y and Z and we benched him. Hope he has a nice life."

Maybe Butler owns up to whatever he did. Or we get it all confirmed. But Belichick isn't going to tell us chapter and verse about a "personnel situation" and there's a little nobility in that. 

But since we don't know, we still can't bring out our scales of justice.

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Was the "nobody-is-bigger-than-the-team" message Belichick was clearly delivering truly worth the cost?

A player who has capably covered the game's best players 1-on-1 -- T.Y. Hilton, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders -- wasn't watching solely because he didn't fit the defensive packages. That we know. 

And I suspect that Belichick didn't tell Butler or his replacement, Eric Rowe, well in advance because of the reaction it would spark from Butler and maybe from his teammates. 

And their reaction is the tip of the iceberg. A Super Bowl win is worth millions to the franchise and ownership. It's legacy time down in Foxboro and Robert Kraft's is in there, too. 

I have a feeling there's a General MacArthur-Harry Truman struggle going on where "the franchise" is Robert's but "the team" is Bill's. 

And the eye-widening way the Jimmy Garoppolo trade played out feels a little like evidence of that as well. 

I don't know how this all ends. But I'm damn sure it's not over. 

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Chris Long doesn't put stock in Brady-Belichick drama. "It took everything to beat them."

Chris Long doesn't put stock in Brady-Belichick drama. "It took everything to beat them."

In an interview with The Big Lead, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long spoke on the drama surrounding Tom Brady and Bill Belichick

It's safe to say he doesn't put much stock into it

I just think any NFL team, any NFL locker room under a lot of stress over a year period, there are going to be storylines people can choose to kind of blow out of proportion or not pay attention to. I think everyone’s going to pay attention to sometimes really small issues. Whatever people are alluding to going on up there hasn’t affected their play, it hasn’t affected their bottom line. It hasn’t affected how they executed on Sundays. 

Long played with the Patriots during the 2016 season and won Super Bowl 51 with them before signing a two-year contract with the Eagles. The Eagles then went on to beat New England in Super Bowl 52. If anyone outside of the Patriots' locker room has an idea of the culture inside the past two years, Long has to be one of them. 

It took everything for us to beat them. It took a heroic performance by Nick Foles and we had to play our best game. So while everybody likes to always point to the Patriots as being under duress or there’s some drama in the locker room, there’s drama in every locker room that you could blow out of proportion. They’re just on top and those stories sell because they’ve been so great.

ESPN's Seth Wickersham released a story detailing some of the issues that arose in New England over the past few years in January, and with Brady missing almost all of the Patriots' voluntary workouts last month, some have started to wonder whether this is the end for one of both of Brady-Belichick. 

While their hasn't been much public acknowledgement from either side about the drama, but Long certainly doesn't see much substance to the noise. 

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Tony Romo's Super Bowl prediction draws response from Tom Brady

Tony Romo's Super Bowl prediction draws response from Tom Brady

Tony Romo's Super Bowl prediction of the Jacksonville Jaguars taking over the AFC title from the Patriots and facing the Green Bay Packers in Atlanta in SB53 drew a response from Tom Brady on Instagram.

The NFL's official Instagram account posted a photo of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Jags cornerback Jalen Ramsey with the prediction of Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys QB now the analyst on CBS' No. 1 NFL broadcast team. Here's a screenshot, complete with Brady's comment:

Appearing on the NFL Network earlier this week, Romo said rumors of a rift between Brady and coach Bill Belichick are overblown. “I think they probably squabble just like any married couple for 20 years, and then they also love each other.

“I just think when you work together for 15 to 20 years, whatever it is, I think that whenever you have the success that they have, people have to come up with stuff,” Romo said. “I also think that I’ve been upset with my coaches before, and then you come back and you’re fine. And then you get upset with them, and you come back and you’re fine. It’s a part of sports.”

Brady and the Patriots report to camp on July 26.

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