NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Ex-New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler felt like he turned a corner Sunday in the Tennessee Titans’ 34-10 win over his former team. Maybe all he needed was some encouraging words from the same coach who benched him in Super Bowl LII, Bill Belichick.
Butler spoke to Belichick before and after Sunday’s game. Neither brought up the Super Bowl.
“It was great, man,” Butler said. “It was kind of weird. I haven’t seen him in a long time in person. He just told me good luck and keep fighting and appreciate the four years that we played together.”
Butler said he reciprocated the message. The last time the two spoke was before free agency.
Belichick also talked to former Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan, now on the Titans, before the game.
“Bill came up to me pregame, a couple of them came up to me pregame and said, ‘Hey, you’re having a great year.’ And I thought they were trying to psych me out,” Ryan said. “I thought they were trying to get me too comfortable and double-move me early. It was fun seeing those guys, but it was also good getting a win.”
Butler was playing like one of the worst starting cornerbacks in the NFL nine weeks into the 2018 season. He had allowed the most receptions, yards and touchdowns entering Week 10, then he shined against the Patriots.
He let up just a 6-yard catch to running back James White and a 5-yard reception to wide receiver Julian Edelman in 50 snaps. Butler has a theory on why the Patriots didn’t go after him more.
“Maybe they probably thought that I wanted revenge or I was going to play hard, ain’t no telling,” Butler said. “There was a couple plays they could have thrown it, but they didn’t. So, let it be.”
After Butler’s struggles, he’s trying to treat the second half of the schedule as a different season. The 5-4 Titans are 1-0 in that case, and Butler is off to a hot start.
“It’s a new season for me,” Butler said. “I put Week 1 through (9) behind me and I’m rolling with this week on forward. This is my second season, so I’m going to do anything to help my team win.”
He also acknowledged he was caught off guard by his slow start to the season.
“It’s been tough for me,” Butler said. “I’ve pretty much been spoiled my first four years in the NFL — Pro Bowls, Super Bowls, All-Pro — and this is a time in my life and my career I haven’t experienced. I’m managing it well, and I feel like I turned a corner.”
Butler will always be a Super Bowl hero in the hearts of Patriots fans. And it’s clear he’s not trying to burn any bridges that he’s playing for “Patriots South” in Tennessee.