FOXBORO, Mass. — Malcolm Butler’s absence on the first day of Patriots organized team activities open to the media caused a major brouhaha throughout New England.
Some postulated that Butler skipped the practice session because he was unhappy with his contract. The cornerback would have every right to do so; he was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015 but is set to make just $600,000 in 2016. Butler, who attended the Patriots’ first day of mandatory minicamp, said it didn’t go down like that.
“Big misunderstanding,” Butler said Tuesday. “I had some off-the-field issues. Family issues, something like that.”
Still, when questioned about his contract, it was clear everything’s not copacetic.
“It is what it is,” Butler said. “I’m gonna play hard no matter what. It is what it is.”
Butler said he’s “not sure” if there have been talks about a contract extension. The 26-year-0ld will be an restricted free agent after the season, which means the Patriots first have to give him a first-, second- or original-round tender. Another team would then have the opportunity to sign Butler to an offer sheet, which the Patriots would have to match to retain the cornerback. If the Patriots chose not to match, the other team would have to give up compensation based on the Patriots’ tender.
“I control only what I can control,” Butler said. “Just out here playing football.”
Butler went the smart route when asked if he feels he deserves a new contract.
“I got no comment on that one,” Butler said.
“All I can do is go out there, play football, make plays for the team. Just whatever to help the team win, that’s what I’m all about.”
Butler’s plan is to keep practicing and let the contract situation play out as it will.
“That’s how you stay here,” Butler said.
Butler is in a sticky situation, since the Patriots hold most of the leverage in any contract talks. As a restricted free agent, Butler’s value will be lower on what’s not exactly an open market. If he signs a contract extension before he hits free agency, he might not be given market value, which is at an all-time high for cornerbacks.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images