New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty said that the team knew Malcolm Butler would not be starting Super Bowl 52.
The New England Patriots fell just short of picking up a second consecutive Super Bowl victory, losing Super Bowl 52 to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots defense just couldn’t get any stops, as they were picked apart by Nick Foles. Maybe cornerback Malcolm Butler would have helped change that.
The hero of Super Bowl 49 against the Seattle Seahawks, Butler was shockingly not used in Super Bowl 52. It was something that shocked many viewers, as Butler appeared on the field for only one play on special teams covering a punt.
While the benching was a surprise, the response, or lack thereof, was not. Getting information out of the Patriots is an act of futility. Any news is not easy to come by, and it was no different this time around.
Head coach Bill Belichick offered little on the situation, saying it was a game plan decision that was his final decision to make. Butler, understandably, was not happy about the benching.
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Butler believed he would have helped the team, and it would be difficult to argue against that. The Patriots pass defense was atrocious, as Eric Rowe, Jordan Richards and Johnson Bademosi were all beaten badly in coverage. Alshon Jeffery had a monster first half without Stephon Gilmore shadowing him, an adjustment that was made in the second half but it was too late for them.
It was a decision that anyone watching the game was surprised to see. While Butler struggled this season compared to previous ones, he was still an important piece of the Patriots defense.
Many people believed the Butler benching could have caused a game plan change late, which is why they struggled so much. However, that is not the case.
According to NJ Advanced Media, Patriots safety Devin McCourty shared that the team knew Butler would not be starting during the week.
"“We all knew he wasn’t starting all week. That wasn’t a secret to the guys on the team,” safety Devin McCourty told NJ Advance Media."
The rumors that circulated about Butler’s benching are something that disappointed McCourty as well.
"“I get why people are fishing. The guy played 98 percent of the plays [in the regular season]. I just hate that for him character-wise going into free agency; it’s just not true. As far as I know, and I was there all week, not one time did anything come up,” McCourty said on Saturday at a Rutgers-based fundraiser for his charity Tackle Sickle Cell."
ESPN has a report contradicting what McCourty said. According to Josina Anderson of ESPN, one Patriots starter stated he definitely didn’t know Butler wouldn’t be starting. It is more difficult to believe a report without a name being put to it, but that isn’t the first evidence of players being unaware.
Rowe, who started for Butler, said after the game that he did not know he would be starting until closer to kickoff. He did add that he wasn’t surprised he played much but was surprised Butler did play, as it wasn’t a part of the game plan.
This will be something that will be talked about throughout the offseason. With Butler set to become a free agent, there will be discussions about it throughout the whole process. Teams will want to know what truly happened, and news will most likely continue leaking out in the coming weeks.