Malcolm Butler says Patriots 'gave up' on him

Malcolm Butler says Patriots 'gave up' on him

MINNEAPOLIS -- Malcolm Butler stood with his back to reporters, trying to clasp his thick gold chain. He went at it once. No luck. Twice. Not happening. After a third try, he flung it into his backpack while muttering something under his breath. 


Butler then turned sharply, not to face about a dozen media members waiting at his locker, but to spin out of sight and out into the night. He saluted those waiting on him and hustled for the exit. 

Before he got to the buses, Butler was stopped and asked if he was given a reason why his team -- a team that gave up 41 points in the Super Bowl -- had opted to bench him.

“No,” he told NBC Sports Boston, with an edge in his voice. He then shook his head and off he went.


He later realized he'd left his cellphone in the locker room, returned, and was stopped by a member of the Patriots media-relations staff. Asked if he'd take a few questions from reporters, he opted not to, threw his hands in the air and left the locker room again. 

It was a stunning end to a frustrating year. After leading the team in defensive snaps this season, including playoffs, he did not see one in his team's 41-33 loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII. 

All the while, his replacements, Eric Rowe and Johnson Bademosi, struggled in coverage at times and missed some critical third-down tackles. Butler, a sure tackler and one of the most competitive players on the field whether he was playing well or not, could have helped. 

Bill Belichick deemed otherwise, saying repeatedly after the game that he did what was best for the team, what gave them the best chance to win.

Butler’s teammates, already in shock about the loss, had precious few answers on Butler’s status. Duron Harmon told us to "ask coach," and safety Jordan Richards stammered for a second, shrugged and eventually said he didn’t want to speak on that.

"You gotta ask the coaches," Stephon Gilmore said. "We rotate a lot in practice. We just go with the coaching staff . . . We know he's a great player, but we gotta listen to the coaches. Whatever they say we gotta do, we gotta do." 


There were mixed messages from Patriots defensive backs after the game when it came to how much warning had been given to the team as it related to the plan with Butler. Devin McCourty told NBC Sports Boston after the game that players understood what the plan was as it related to Butler's playing time. When asked why that was the plan, McCourty said it wasn't up to the players.

Eric Rowe, meanwhile, said, "that wasn't the plan."

"It wasn't official," Rowe said, "until kickoff... I feel for [Butler]."  

Indications are that Rowe practiced opposite Gilmore this past week, but, because the Patriots tend to rotate players in practice, Rowe may not have been sure he was starting until just before the game.

Multiple players, such as Rowe, seemed taken aback by the decision not to play the Super Bowl XLIX hero. One player told NBC Sports Boston that Butler's benching wasn’t necessarily beneficial for the team Sunday night. 

Belichick said after the game that the decision not to play Butler was not disciplinary in nature. 

"We put the best -- the players out there and the game plan out there that we thought would be the best tonight," Belichick said, "like we always do."

Belichick explained that the decision was strictly football related, and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia echoed those sentiments. 

"We just played all the guys we could to try to help us win in whatever packages we had," he said. "Different situations came up, and were just trying to move some things around."

Whatever the reasoning, Butler was emotional following the game. Appearing angry at times, appearing saddened at others. He was boiling when ESPN's Mike Reiss caught up with him.

"They gave up on me. F---. It is what it is," Butler said. "I don't know what it was. I guess I wasn't playing good or they didn't feel comfortable. I don't know. But I could have changed that game."

With Butler out, Rowe was targeted a team-high nine times and allowed six catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. Bademosi was targeted once and allowed one catch for 17 yards.

On the night, Nick Foles completed 28 of 43 pass attempts for 373 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.


Rob Gronkowski's cameo at Syracuse-Duke game has Twitter buzzing

Rob Gronkowski's cameo at Syracuse-Duke game has Twitter buzzing

Who needs a beach vacation when you can watch college basketball in central New York?

Rob Gronkowski apparently had that same thought, as the New England Patriots tight end showed up to the Carrier Dome in full Orange regalia Saturday night to watch Syracuse battle No. 1 Duke.

Gronkowski hails from the Buffalo area -- he grew up in nearby Williamsville, N.Y. -- hence the allegiance to Syracuse, about 150 miles east on I-90.

The 29-year-old rolled in with a crew, too, as his brothers joined him in courtside seats for the high-profile matchup.

It looks like Gronk even got his own custom jersey for the occasion, a No. 4 jersey with "Gronkowski" on the back.

The star tight end doesn't have direct ties to Syracuse, as he played his college ball at Arizona. But the Gronkowski clan still has a connection to the Orange, as his father, Gordon, played football at Syracuse.

Gronkowski still hasn't decided whether he'll return for the 2019 season, and it appears he's still enjoying his time away from football with some nice quiet family time.

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Is Robert Kraft "biggest name" charged in prostitution case, after all?

Is Robert Kraft "biggest name" charged in prostitution case, after all?

Those waiting for the other shoe to drop in the Florida prostitution scandal may be stuck holding their breath.

ESPN's Adam Schefter prompted massive speculation Friday by mentioning on "SportsCenter" he was told Robert Kraft is "not the biggest name involved" in a Jupiter, Fla., bust that resulted in the New England Patriots owner being charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution.

The list of "bigger names" than Kraft, the owner of arguably the most visible franchise in North American sports, isn't a long one. So, who the heck was Schefter referring to?

Turns out those close to the investigation are wondering the same thing.

From Deadspin's interview with Palm Beach County state attorney's office spokesman Mike Edmonson:

Deadspin asked Edmondson about a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter saying he’d been “told that Robert Kraft is not the biggest name involved down there in South Florida.” Edmondson responded: “Nobody around here has any idea what [Schefter] is referring to.

Police released a list Friday of 25 people facing charges for their alleged involvement in a human trafficking ring run out of several Florida day spas. Kraft was the only notable public figure on the list, but police added they've identified at least 100 men suspected of paying prostitutes for sex as part of their months-long investigation.

That means it's still possible another high-profile figure gets connected to the scandal. But according to Edmonson, it's also possible we've already seen the biggest bombshell.

Kraft strongly denied any illegal activity in a statement Friday afternoon, but a warrant for his arrest is expected to be issued Monday, so we likely won't have closure on this case for some time.

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