On Monday, Malcolm Butler held his first media availability since re-signing with the Patriots last month. It’s the first time he’s spoken directly with Patriots media since after Super Bowl LII, so naturally the questions about his non-participation in that game came early and often.
“I ain’t got too much to say about that, man. I’m trying to live in the present,” Butler said when asked directly why he didn’t play. “You can’t think about the past all the time, so I’ve move forward from that. I know it’ll always be there, but I haven’t said anything to anybody about anything. So you going to have to keep doing your research or whatever you’ve got to do because I’m here for the Patriots and I’m here to be peace.”
The Patriots lost that game 41-33. Many have pointed to Butler’s on-field absence (he was present on the sideline in uniform) as a key reason for the loss, as the Patriots struggled to stop the Eagles’ passing offense. While there are many theories that have circulated since, there has never been a definitive reason given as to why Butler didn’t play. Even Butler never gave an answer despite leaving as a free agent that offseason.
“You never want to burn your bridges down,” Butler said of not speaking about the incident since. “I was brought up with respect. I ain’t perfect, but I was brought up with respect, and anything I need to say to somebody, I address them. The platform that I have you can’t just say anything and just act all wild and stuff like that. And it was, it was tough, but you can’t dwell on things in the past. I’m looking forward – I play cornerback. If I think about the last week that I got beat on, I won’t be here for a long time. So, you’ve got to look forward and focus on the main things that matter the most.”
However, Butler did share that he and Belichick spoke about the benching immediately after the game.
“It wasn’t hard [to not talk about the benching] because, like I said you keep business in-house. I shared my feelings with Bill Belichick – we had a talk about it like grown men. That’s what we did,” he shared. “And that’s the past. I’m in the present now. We’re in the present now, it’s 2022 now. It’s a whole different – like what, four years, four years later now? So, you can’t live in the past all the time.”
As it turns out, that’s the last time Butler and Belichick spoke about Super Bowl LII. It didn’t come up during his contract negotiations this spring.
“We just talked about the contract and he asked me was I locked – was I all in – ready to play,” Butler said. “I told him ‘yeah, I am.’ He said, ‘I know you took a year off and the transition’s going to be hard since you took a year off.’ But I’m up for the challenge. You know, I can take that challenge and come in here and work hard and take on any role. There wasn’t much to talk about because I’m here to work.”
Still, Butler didn’t think he’d end up back in New England until the wheels were put in motion earlier this offseason. At the same time, he recognizes his handling of the situation is what allowed this opportunity.
“I didn’t expect to comeback, but I always have respect for the New England Patriots – Mr. Kraft Jonathan Kraft, Bill Belichick. And one thing I learned man, you never burn your bridges down and handle situations as a man and as a grown-up. If I didn’t do that, I don’t think I would have had an opportunity to come back here. So I’m pretty sure I made a good decision by acting like grown a man.”
“It came as a surprise. It really did,” Butler said of getting the call this offseason. He’d previously announced his retirement prior to the 2021 season. “It came as a surprise. My agent told me that Bill wanted to talk with me, so I was happy. I start working out immediately because I knew it could be a possibility that I could return. And that’s what happened. So, I’m just blessed to be here, I’m dedicated and I’m committed.”
And just like that, former All-Pro and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler is Patriot again. Yet even with everything that’s happened since the last time he took the field in a Patriots uniform, it didn’t like he’s been gone long.
“It felt like I was here yesterday, to be honest,” Butler said of his first day back in the building. “And one thing I know about the New England Patriots is the hard work is still here. I’m pretty sure I’m going to sleep well tonight.”