By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Malcolm Butler did not play a single defensive snap in Super Bowl LII. The Patriots’ defense gave up 538 yards and 41 points to Nick Foles and the Eagles. The Patriots lost. Butler’s benching has received quite a bit of attention.
But aside from some polite comments from head coach Bill Belichick, now-former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, and Butler himself, we really haven’t gotten an explanation for the mysterious lack of usage of Butler. Until now.
Butler sat down for an interview with Sports Illustrated and said what many fans think: He believes the Patriots would have won the game if he had been given an opportunity to play.
“Would we have won if I played? Probably. Maybe. I’m not sure,” Butler said in an episode of SI: Under The Cover, which is part of Sports Illustrated TV on Amazon. “But I would say we were short about one or two plays, and I’ve seen a couple plays out there I could’ve made.”
Butler chalked it up to being a “coaching decision that just didn’t work out good for me or the New England Patriots organization.”
In a video clip on Twitter promoting the show, Butler described what was going through his mind when he had to spend the night standing on the sideline while his teammates clearly struggled in his absence.
“There was times that I was on the sideline that I just wanted to go up and say to Belichick or Matt Patricia and just say, ‘This is how we’re gonna end this?’ I grew up in the Patriots system, and I’m a well-mannered guy. I respect my authority,” Butler explained. “I just couldn’t ask them for something they didn’t want to do. I just was doing my job. I was close to going up there and saying what I wanted to say to Matt or Belichick, but I just stayed in my lane and just did my job, man. I really wanted to go ask them, but I didn’t.
Previously, Butler had not said much about the benching, which came after he had played 100 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in the postseason and led the team by taking 97.8 percent of the team’s defensive snaps during the regular season. Butler told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald that his late arrival to Minnesota (due to illness) might have led the coaching staff to believe he “wasn’t as locked in as I should be and could have been a matchup deal. It could have been anything.” In his introductory press conference with the Titans, Butler said, “I wasn’t feeling too well, and the New England Patriots are all about doing your job and they want everybody locked in and focused 100 percent and that probably was not the case.”
For his part, Belichick didn’t offer any public explanation. He wished Butler well when speaking this week at the owners meetings.
In the SI episode, Butler spoke to his disappointment of not being able to stay with the Patriots, the team that signed him as an undrafted rookie in 2014 and helped him become an NFL star.
“You know, I wanted to go out like Kobe Bryant. I might not be Kobe Bryant, I’ll never be Kobe Bryant, but I always told myself that I always wanted to finish my career on one team and just go out like that,” Butler said. “But no one wants to be somewhere where they’re not wanted.”
Butler signed a contract with the Tennessee Titans as a free agent, a contract which guarantees him $30 million. His agent, Derek Simpson, says in the video that he received interest from the Bears, Saints, Titans and Texans, with the Bears making a formal offer.
In the video, he reiterated that he didn’t do anything to warrant discipline, aside from getting sick.
“The week before the Super Bowl, I wasn’t feeling too well. I had the flu, a nose running, nose stopped up. I took a trip to the hospital and I didn’t travel with the team the day they traveled down there,” he said. “I never missed a game. Never missed practice or anything like that.”
Butler also reflected on his relationship with Patriots fans.
“Sometimes I just feel like — I hate to say this, but sometimes I just feel like I’m not going to find that nowhere else,” Butler said. “I’ll always be in their hearts, and they’ll always be my fans, and they’re going to follow me no matter what. I don’t care what anybody says, what team I play for, those fans are gonna love me. And they’ll have my love back.”