BOSTON (CBS) — With Malcolm Butler abruptly retiring from the NFL last week, much of his incredible career has been resurfaced in recent days. That’s included the positives — like his rise from undrafted rookie out of West Alabama to making arguably the most memorable play in Super Bowl history. And it’s included the negatives — like when he was benched as the Patriots’ defense got carved up by Nick Foles in a Super Bowl LII loss.

On the latter point, there’s always been an air of mystery surrounding why Bill Belichick decided to keep his second-best cornerback stuck on the sideline for the entire game, while the likes of Eric Rowe, Jordan Richards and Johnson Bademosi were all put in elevated roles in the secondary. Considering it made zero football sense, rumors around what Butler might have done to earn that punishment have always persisted.

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But James Harrison — a temporary Patriot who was part of that 2017 playoff run — is here to squash them all.

Speaking with USA Today’s Henry McKenna, Harrison let it rip on anyone who’s pushed for those rumors to take root.

“I think that they just actually thought that he just didn’t have it. I think that was a part of the process. All this stuff that came out, ‘Oh he was out there doing this. He was doing that.’ That’s a crock of [expletive]. That’s not true,” Harrison said. “I just think they thought [Butler] wasn’t up to the task. I don’t know. But I know for sure that all that stuff that was coming out about curfew and all that other [expletive] — that’s a crock of [expletive].”

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Harrison continued: “It’s just not even close to true because that — like I don’t even know what happens if you’re late to a meeting. I’ve never seen a guy late to a meeting [in New England]. So for wild allegations of ‘it’s this, it’s that’ and you have not one ounce of [expletive] proof? Come on, man. You all need to stop making up stories to sell papers and get clicks or whatever it is. It’s just bull.”

Clearly, Harrison doesn’t have the exact answer on Butler’s benching, but he strongly believes the rumors and assumptions surrounding that low moment in Patriots history are simply not true.

Belichick was actually asked if he regrets benching Butler in that Super Bowl while doing his weekly interview on WEEI on Tuesday.

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“In retrospect, looking back, I always try to do what’s best for the football team,” Belichick said. “And that’s what I’ll continue to do. I try to look ahead, not back too much.”

CBSBoston.com Staff