Malcolm Butler did not play a single defensive snap Sunday night in Super Bowl LII, a decision that likely will be scrutinized for years to come.
The New England Patriots cornerback saw the field on just one play in his team’s 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium, lining up on the punt return team early in the second quarter.
That was the only punt by either team in the game, so it’s possible Butler would have seen additional playing time had the Patriots forced the Eagles to boot the ball away more often. It also was the first special teams snap Butler had played since 2015.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t reveal much about the benching after the game, saying only that it was football-related, not disciplinary. Ditto for defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who said Butler was healthy enough to play if his “packages” were utilized.
“We were just trying to run some packages we had on defense, and those guys that were out there for all the situations that we needed them for,” Patricia said. “So it kind of turned out that way, and the game, with the way it went and some of the situations that came up, that was just kind of the way it went.”
He added: “If he was called upon, he was ready to play in those packages if that situation arose.”
Butler, who is set to hit free agency next month, led the Patriots in defensive snaps played during the 2017 and 2015 seasons and ranked second behind safety Devin McCourty in 2016. Entering Sunday, he’d started all but one game since the start of the 2015 campaign.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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