Malcolm Butler

After Butler signed with Titans, Belichick phoned with thanks for all he'd done with Pats

cp-patriots-belichick-malcolm-butler-073018x.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Photo

After Butler signed with Titans, Belichick phoned with thanks for all he'd done with Pats

The Patriots' decision to bench Malcolm Butler for the Super Bowl remains baffling. Their choice to let him leave via free agency is less surprising but -- considering the state of the New England defense -- still debatable. Yet the Pats insist it was strictly a football decision, nothing more, and Butler himself says the same.

The proof? Butler says that after he signed with the Titans, Bill Belichick called him with congratulations on his new contract, thanks for all he'd done for the Patriots, and praise for choosing an organization -- Tennessee, with ex-Pats executive Jon Robinson as GM and former New England linebacker Mike Vrabel as head coach -- that he thinks is well-run and on the rise.

"No bad blood between me and Bill Belichick," Butler said in an in-depth story on ESPN.com that was published over the weekend. "One of the greatest coaches ever and I care about him, I know he care about me. And this a hurtful game sometimes and it can look different than what it is. But that's my guy . . . I got a lot of respect for him."

Butler told ESPN he was sick with flu-like symptoms the week before the Super Bowl, so sick that he didn't fly with the team to Minnesota on the Monday before the game. He admitted he "fell behind a bit on the game plan and had a rough week in practice," according to the story. When game time arrived, Belichick decided to start Eric Rowe -- who had been sharing snaps with Butler during the week -- in his place.

"This the biggest game of the year, so you gotta shoot your best gun or your best shot," Butler said. "Preparation is the best way to win. And maybe they didn't see 100 percent, mentally or physically, Malcolm Butler that they usually see."

He vehemently denies there were any off-field issues -- missing curfew, attending a concert, even engaging in a fight with one of the coaches (all of which have been rumored) -- that led to the move. 

"It was real tough," Butler said. "Most the time I'm not gonna say anything, I'm just gonna chill, play football. I usually just swallow my L or take whatever the treatment dealt, whatever the situation. But it was getting out of hand. I had to say something."

Butler is now reunited with ex-Patriots teammate Logan Ryan in Tennessee.

"Everybody was surprised that happened in the Super Bowl. But I'm not surprised that happened [in Foxboro]," said Ryan. "Sometimes it's like that over there for whatever reason it may be. What they do works in their own way. It didn't work that day. Stuff has been done like that in the past and it's worked. Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of all time. But I'm not surprised with that. Everybody is replaceable in the NFL. That's one thing you'll definitely learn over there. It's a lesson for everybody.

"[Butler] didn't need to defend himself. He didn't get the chance to defend himself or say his side, which is fine. I know it was a tough year for him. We talked on the phone and via text. I was very aware of the situation. I felt terrible for him. I know he's hungry. I know last year it wore on him with the contract and added pressure, but I think he's back to his free self and excited to prove people wrong."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

 

Butler says Super Bowl benching gives him 'a little extra gas in the tank'

Butler says Super Bowl benching gives him 'a little extra gas in the tank'

To no one's surprise, Malcolm Butler has a chip on his shoulder entering the season following Bill Belichick's infamous decision to bench him in the Super Bowl.

Terry McCormick of titaninsider.com asked Butler if the benching, along with the Patriots' loss, gives him extra motivation. Unlike Belichick, Butler was open about what happened in Super Bowl LII, and talked about how it affects him as he begins a new chapter with the Titans.

“Most definitely,” Butler said. “I’m very fueled, and I’ve always been this way, but I’ve got a little extra gas in the tank."

Having a chip on his shoulder is nothing new to Butler, who went undrafted in 2014 and had to fight his way up the depth chart in New England.

All of that motivation has paid off in a big way, as Butler inked a five-year, $61 million deal with Tennessee in free agency. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Harmon doesn't need explanation why Butler was benched in Super Bowl

Harmon doesn't need explanation why Butler was benched in Super Bowl

FOXBORO -- Trying to find out why Malcolm Butler played just a single snap in the Super Bowl has been a fruitless and frustrating endeavor. Leads are followed but invariably passage ways lead to dead ends, or doors that get opened have nothing but a brick wall on the other side. 

Bill Belichick has done nothing to shed any light on the decision, despite being asked often including the day before training camp opened. His players -- past and present -- are in the same boat as we are. They haven’t gotten an answer.

And, according to safety Duron Harmon, they don’t need one.

“It’s over with,” said Harmon after the first day of training camp. “I mean it’s all what-ifs now and what-ifs are not going to change anything. So what is the point of going back in the past and trying to go over that and try to find answers when in all reality, it doesn’t even matter anymore in the 2018 season?”

MORE PATRIOTS TRAINING CAMP

He’s not wrong. There is no changing what happened February 4th at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The Eagles played a near perfect game offensively en route to a 41-33 victory in Super Bowl LII. But there were a handful of plays that Jordan Richards or Johnson Bademosi couldn’t make that Butler has made before. And maybe it was just that one play that would have turned the game. Butler had no answers following that game and still hasn’t said anything damming since. Harmon believes there is no room to let this question linger.

“You just gotta look at what you want to accomplish this year,” Harmon told me. “We know we want to play good football and be in a position at the end of the year to play more games in the winter. So looking at (the Butler situation), that doesn’t have anything to do with that (playing well this year). Malcolm has moved on. He’s with the Tennessee Titans now and it’s time we do the same (and move on).”

Harmon didn’t sound caution alarms about what would happen if the Pats don’t find a way to get past it, but this is a long season with pitfalls around every corner. He doesn’t want his teammates to waste energy on anything other than playing ball and stacking one day on top of the next, just like always.

“You’re looking at a tunnel and you can’t even see the light right now.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE