New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Malcolm Butler in warmups before Super Bowl LII. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann of Getty Images)

  • The wait goes on, wondering without explanation why teary-eyed Malcolm Butler remained on the sideline of U.S. Bank Stadium for nearly all of the 3 hours and 46 minutes of Super Bowl LII.

    Why was Butler, a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback, idled except for one play, a punt, while the likes of Johnson Bademosi, theretofore almost exclusively a Patriots special teamer, futilely chased after Eagles in the secondary?

    What were the reasons behind the benching of someone who was already a Super Bowl savior and surely could have done more to prevent enough of Philadelphia’s 41 points to allow the Pats to prevail in Minneapolis?

    Where exactly did one of the best ‘feel-good’ stories in local sports history start to turn, leaving us subjected to Philly fanatics celebrating their city’s first Super Bowl title by climbing greased-up poles into the early hours of Feb. 5, 2018?

    Seasons came and went. Butler went and came back.

    He left for Tennessee, rewarded in free agency. He moved on to Arizona, only to retire suddenly. He soon un-retired and, surprisingly if not shockingly, returned to New England.

    “Feels like home,” Butler told us in July, still feeling no need to say much of anything about you know what.

    “You never burn your bridges down,” Butler said then, admitting surprise that Bill Belichick reached out to his agent to reunite. “I’m not perfect, but I was brought up with respect. You can’t dwell on things in the past. You’ve got to look forward.”

    Within a month, Butler’s summer stint was over, shortened by injury. He left with a settlement. We were left still wondering.

    On Thursday, a few days before Philly’s so-called ‘Crisco Cops’ slather the city’s poles again in case the Birds get their second Super Bowl win, Butler was in the Valley of the Sun, back where he burst into the limelight as an undrafted rookie out of West Alabama.

    He was making the rounds on radio row in Phoenix, next to Glendale, which hosts its first Super Bowl since his championship-clinching interception of Seattle’s Russell Wilson. With a product to pitch, he stopped to sit with Zolak and Bertrand (and Hardy!).

    The yet unanswered question was asked again.

    “Like I always say, it was a coaching decision. But I really don’t know, man,” Malcolm said. “I got a documentary coming out where I’m talking about all that I did with some of the guys in New England. And I got a book coming out also, so I ain’t gonna spill the beans out of them right now, but it’ll be something to look forward to.”

  • 'Something to look forward to'

    GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01: Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots intercepts a pass by Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks intended for Ricardo Lockette #83 late in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

    Butler burst into the national limelight eight years ago in Glendale, Ariz. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

    Now we have to wait for the movie and the book. Mark Daniels of reports the former comes out in 2025 and the latter is still a work in progress.

    If you’re tired of waiting, you’ve made it this long. What’s another couple of years? Or more?

    For at least one of us, the wait will be easy. I hope Malcolm’s book, whenever it’s published, is a page-turner. But I’m ready now to turn the page. 

    Same for so much else said and written about the Pats lately, stuff that I admit has consumed my time and thoughts, too. About Tom and Bill. And Matt and Joe.

    The importance of looking back is understood. So is the impact of doing so where it matters most in the radio business: the ratings book. But in my space, starting now, I’m looking ahead.

    I began feeling this way as Shrine Bowl coverage got underway in Las Vegas, seeing Bill Belichick offering hands-on pointers to defensive prospects and Bill O’Brien giving hand-gesturing instructions to young quarterbacks. Reports from the Senior Bowl added to it. Just as I expect dispatches from the upcoming Combine will do.  

    I’m excited about spring, eager to observe how Billy O meshes with Mac Jones and Adrian Klemm relates to the offensive line. I’m anxious about Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater, as they decide on extending or ending their playing careers. I’m concerned about Jonathan Jones and Jakobi Meyers possibly heading elsewhere. And I’m curious about offensive tackles likely to be left on draft boards come pick No. 14. 

    That last one is an item I’d have thought about a lot more by now, if not for thinking so much about choices that have come before.

    With apologies to Graham Nash, who wrote the words to one of my favorite tunes, “Wasted on the Way,” there’s so much time to make up before the Draft and soon-to-follow OTA’s. And so much water moving underneath the bridge.

    Malcolm Butler avoided burning bridges in the past. Maybe he will in a future doc or book. I’m in no hurry to discover if he does or doesn’t.

    Other matters now occupy my mind, like how and where the Pats will find their next No. 1 cornerback.

    Bob Socci recently completed his 10th season calling play-by-play for the Patriots Radio Network on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Follow him on Twitter @BobSocci.

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