BOSTON — Cornerback Malcolm Butler reportedly joined his New England Patriots teammates for offseason workouts this week, solidifying the team’s secondary as one of the NFL’s best.
Speaking Wednesday at a community football clinic at Harvard Stadium, safety Patrick Chung said he’s happy to have Butler back in the fold.
“We have him now, so we’re good,” Chung said. “He’s a good player — great player. He’s a funny dude. It’s good to have him back. Now we can get going and moving forward.”
There was speculation leading up to last week’s NFL draft that the Patriots might trade Butler, who is set to make just $3.91 million this season. These rumors began after New England signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million contract that dwarfed Butler’s current deal.
The Patriots ultimately chose to hang on to Butler, however, and did the same with backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, whom the Cleveland Browns repeatedly attempted to trade for in the days and weeks before the draft.
Chung did not want to speak for Garoppolo (the QB helped host the clinic but did not address the media) but said the Patriots are a better team with Garoppolo on it.
“I’m just glad that he’s back,” Chung said. “He’s a great player, also. We have a lot of good players, and the more players we have, the better our chances.”
Garoppolo is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract. He has started just two games in his NFL career, piloting the Patriots to back-to-back wins during Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension.
“He’s getting better and better,” Chung said of the 25-year-old signal-caller. “I mean, he’s learned from the best, for one. And he works hard, and he’s getting better. He’s always been good. … Hopefully, he keeps that going.”
Since there only is so much football to discuss in early May, Chung also was asked for his take on the drama currently surrounding one of New England’s other pro teams, the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox currently are embroiled in a feud with the Baltimore Orioles that has included one questionable slide, one beanball, two near-beanballs and, most recently, a profanity-laden postgame rant by Orioles third baseman Manny Machado.
Chung said he loves the bad blood between the American League East rivals.
“It’s competitiveness,” he said. “I think that makes the game more fun. If you’re not talking crap, it’s not going to be as fun out there. So you might as well talk a little bit, get a little heated. It makes the game a lot more fun, a lot more interesting to watch.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images