How Malcolm Butler, Belichick handled SBLII benching upon Pats reunion


You'd think there would be some bad blood between Malcolm Butler and the New England Patriots. But whatever transpired before or after Super Bowl LII apparently is water under the bridge.

The veteran cornerback signed a two-year contract with the Patriots on March 24, just over four years after he was mysteriously benched for New England's Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Butler signed a five-year contract with the Tennessee Titans about a month after that Super Bowl in March 2018, and few expected he'd ever return to the Patriots. Butler admitted Monday he was surprised to hear from the team after sitting out the 2021 season due to personal reasons.

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"It came as a surprise. It really did," Butler told reporters. "My agent told me that Bill Belichick wanted to talk to me, so I was happy."

So, did Butler and Belichick talk about how things went down in February 2018? Butler said he and his head coach addressed the situation immediately after Super Bowl LII, but that it didn't come up this time around.

"I shared my feelings with Bill Belichick, we had a talk about it like grown men, and that’s what we did," Butler said. "And that’s the past. I’m in the present now.

"... I've moved forward from that. I know it will always be there, but I haven't said anything to anybody about anything. So, you're going to have to keep doing your research, because I'm here for the Patriots, and I'm here to be peaceful."

In fact, Butler believes he's back with the Patriots in part because how he handled his benching at the time.

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"The one thing I learned, you never burn your bridges down," Butler said. "You handle your situations as a man and as a grown-up, and if I didn't do that, I don't think I would have had an opportunity to come back here. So, pretty sure I made a good decision by acting like a grown man."

The reality is that New England needs Butler's services: After J.C. Jackson signed with the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency, the 32-year-old Butler projects as a starting outside cornerback opposite Jalen Mills.

That's a big responsibility for a player who hasn't taken a snap since 2020. Butler was a productive player during that 2020 campaign, though -- 100 tackles, 14 pass deflections and four interceptions for Tennessee -- and believes he can return to form in 2022.

"Just blessed to be here," Butler said. "I’m dedicated, and I’m committed."

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