Malcolm Butler’s first public comments since Super Bowl LII came on the day he officially became a former New England Patriot.
After leaving the Patriots in free agency and signing a reported five-year, $61 million contract with the Tennessee Titans, Butler opened up to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe about his Super Bowl benching.
The cornerback, who played just one snap on special teams and zero on defense in New England’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, said he never heard a definitive reason why he was removed from the game plan after playing more defensive snaps than any Patriots player during the regular season and not leaving the field during the first two playoff rounds.
Butler did offer some speculation, however, before expressing his gratitude toward head coach Bill Belichick, team owner Robert Kraft and the rest of the Patriots organization.
“I never got a reason,” Butler, who previously addressed the benching in a social media statement, told Howe. “I feel like this was the reason: I got kind of sick. I went to the hospital. They probably thought I was kind of late on the game plan; I wasn?t as locked in as I should be and could have been a matchup deal. It could have been anything.
“But Bill Belichick has been doing this for a very long time. He took a veteran out of Super Bowl XLIX (against the Seattle Seahawks) and put in a first-year rookie, and that turned out right, so you could never question his decision. It didn?t work out right (against the Eagles). It didn?t work out the best for me or him or the New England Patriots.
Butler said he received great support following the Super Bowl from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who also wished the corner well in an Instagram post Wednesday.
“It means a lot,” Butler told Howe. “I got several calls from Tom Brady before the Titans contract. After the Super Bowl, I got a couple calls from him. He was really concerned, and he just wanted to know what was going on or whatever. I really appreciate that from him.”
Butler played four seasons in New England after entering the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2014. After bursting onto the scene with his goal-line interception of Russell Wilson in Super Bowl XLIX, he started 54 of the next 55 games, earning a Pro Bowl selection in 2015 and second-team All-Pro honors in 2016.