Report: Patriots players did not feel Malcom Butler was struggling in practice
Bill Belichick may have seen something in practice leading up to the Super Bowl that convinced him he needed to bench Malcolm Butler, but at least some of the star cornerback’s teammates felt Butler put in enough work to play.
On Wednesday, Adam Schefter reported that Belichick’s decision to bench Butler was strictly related to performance and had nothing to do with disciplinary action. Schefter’s colleague, Josina Anderson, was told by two Patriots players that they did not see Butler struggling in practice to the point where he shouldn’t be allowed to play.
Btw, I spoke to 2 #Pats players who told me they didn't see Malcolm Butler struggling in practice to the point it would warrant benching Butler on defense the whole Super Bowl, in their minds. There was nothing they could recall that stood out to either of them that bad at all.
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) February 7, 2018
It was almost certainly a combination of things that led to Belichick making the tough call. Butler has admitted that he did not play well in 2017, and it seemed obvious at times that he was bothered by the Patriots signing Stephon Gilmore to a $65 million contract rather than giving him an extension. There may have been some minor things in practice that frustrated Belichick and made him decide he had seen enough.
In any event, it’s clear not all of Belichick’s players agree with his decision, and it would be understandable if some of them believe it cost the team a win in the Super Bowl. The way Tom Brady and other Pats players reacted to Butler’s statement about the situation said a lot.