Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl benching can’t be pegged to one particular thing, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports.
According to Rapoport, “a perfect storm of issues” contributed to the decision not to play Butler at all on defense in the loss to the Eagles. Butler didn’t arrive in Minnesota until a day after his teammates because he was sick. Once he arrived, he disappointed in practice and violated a minor team rule, according to Rapoport.
Butler was a fixture in the New England defense all season long, playing almost 98% of the team’s defensive snaps. But it’s not as though he was a key cog in an impenetrable defense—the Patriots ranked eighth-worst in average yards allowed per pass attempt this season. Still, the decision to limit Butler’s duties to special teams didn’t well with many observers. Former Patriots and Seahawks defensive back Brandon Browner ripped Bill Belichick on Instagram for the call. (Current Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower and two former Pats defenders liked Browner’s post.)
Eric Rowe took Butler’s spot in the starting lineup as the New England defense struggled to contain Philadelphia’s Nick Foles-led offense. Butler was shown crying before the game and didn’t mince words when asked by ESPN’s Mike Reiss about his lack of playing time.
“They gave up on me,” Butler said. “F---. It is what it is.”