FOXBORO, Mass. — Only during an NFL preseason game is being benched early a positive sign.
Malcolm Butler played 15 snaps for the New England Patriots, then he took off his helmet, put his gloves away and watched the rest of the teams’ 22-11 loss in their preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers from the sidelines. The early hook shows Butler’s status as a lock to start at cornerback as he was pulled from the game with starting defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones, safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung and linebacker Jamie Collins.
“It feels good,” Butler said after the game. “It shows me where I stand. It shows me that my teammates and my coaches, they’re depending on me. Even though I’m on the sideline, I’m still getting calls, looking at how I would play the receiver or whoever I’m in front of. It’s all about getting better, getting your teammates’ trust, moving forward and being productive.”
It’s safe to say Butler has come a long way in a year. He wasn’t offered a contract after the 2014 NFL Draft, so he tried out for the Patriots during their rookie minicamp. He impressed enough to sign as an undrafted free agent, then continued to prove he deserved a spot on the Patriots’ roster, even forcing the team to carry an extra cornerback.
His status as Super Bowl XLIX hero proves he plays best under pressure, which is probably why Patriots coaches are handing him the reins to the No. 1 cornerback role.
“You gotta have confidence to play defensive back,” Butler said. “That’s not being a butthole or anything like that, bragging or anything, but you gotta have confidence to play defensive back.”
Butler was targeted three times by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, allowing one catch for 10 yards while also breaking up a pass thrown into the end zone.
“I think tonight went well, but me, myself, the whole unit, we have a lot to prove,” Butler said. “So just got to get back here (Friday), fix a couple errors and continue to try to get better.”
The Patriots’ cornerback corps has gone under a transformation over the past five months. Former starters Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington are gone, opening the door for Butler, Logan Ryan, Robert McClain, Tarell Brown, Bradley Fletcher and Darryl Roberts to fend for top spots. Butler is just taking on the next-man-up mentality.
“Just go out there and play like I did last year,” Butler said about his goal for 2015. “Only thing is we don’t have Revis, you don’t have Browner, and I’d pretty much say if they weren’t here last year, I probably would have been playing or — so I’m just going out there every day and just do my job.”
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
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