BOSTON (CBS) — Bill Belichick was extremely complimentary of most of his players on his Tuesday morning conference call.
Emphasis on “most.”
The normally reserved Belichick spoke glowingly of cornerback Eric Rowe, saying he has a much better understanding of the Patriots’ defense in his second year in New England. He gave a bouquet of praise when asked about Jonathan Jones’ two pass breakups against the Saints on Sunday, saying the corner displayed “textbook technique” on the plays.
“He did a great job on that and those will be great teaching tapes for him, both him and our other players, that when they’re in that position, to see how he did it properly and how successful that was,” Belichick said of Jones.
The coach even defended linebacker David Harris and defensive lineman Alan Branch, a pair of veterans who haven’t made much of an impact through two weeks of the 2017 season.
Then there’s Malcolm Butler, who appears to be in the head coach’s doghouse. Butler essentially played every snap over the last two seasons, but didn’t start Sunday’s win over the Saints. He still saw plenty of action, but in a diminished role in the New England secondary.
The usually reliable corner has struggled since the start of the preseason, and Belichick was asked if Butler has performed as consistently as he has in the past.
“Well, look, we’re into a new season, so I don’t think anybody’s performance this season is really where it needs to be or where it will be. We all need to do a better job – players, coaches – all of us across the board. Hopefully, we’ll all continue to get better during the course of the year. That’s why we practice, and meet, and come in here and work hard, so hopefully we’ll all be able to improve,” replied Belichick.
Given the coach’s responses to questions about other players, it sounds like he’s a little fed up with Butler. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was also asked about the corner on Tuesday, and wasn’t too enthused to discuss his play or role on Sunday.
“We’re trying to put guys out there depending on the situation that we have to be in, can play the defense that we’re asking them to play on that down. That would true for everybody across the board – the front, the linebackers,” said Patricia. “It’s Week 2 right now. We’re trying to, in that particular game, just get better than what we did in Week 1. We’ll be doing the same thing here moving into Week 3.
It was a tumultuous offseason for the Super Bowl XLIX hero, who as a restricted free agent sought a hefty payday from the Patriots. Instead, they gave Stephon Gilmore heaps of cash to be their top corner, and then discussed trading Butler to the New Orleans Saints.
Butler didn’t want to chat with the media following Sunday’s win, dodging questions about his demotion. He’s been all class when he has talked this season, focusing on the task at hand and not the future payday he’ll get when he becomes an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
But given Belichick’s cold shoulder on Tuesday, something is clearly up between the head coach and the corner.