Malcolm Butler played almost every defensive snap for the New England Patriots during the regular season in 2017, so most of us were pretty surprised to see that the star cornerback was not in the starting lineup for Super Bowl LII.
But Patriots safety Devin McCourty recently revealed that the move was not a surprise to the players.
"We all knew he wasn't starting all week," McCourty told NJ Advance Media. "That wasn't a secret to the guys on the team."
McCourty made his comments at a Rutgers, N.J.-based fundraiser for Tackle Sickle Cell in an effort to dispute rumors that Butler was benched for disciplinary reasons — rumors that have already been denied by Butler and coach Bill Belichick.
"As far as I know, all of that is the furthest thing from the truth," McCourty said.
He added: "I get why people are fishing. The guy played 98% of the plays. 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."
Not starting the game is one thing. But the bigger issue seems to be the fact that Butler didn't play a single defensive snap the entire game, while his replacement, Eric Rowe, and the rest of the Patriots defense struggled against Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and the Eagles offense.
Butler made it onto the field for just one special teams play, and the Patriots lost 41-33. Butler said after the game that the Patriots "gave up on me." Belichick said at the time that he "made the decisions that give us the best chance to win."
Later that week, Butler took to social media to address some of the rumors about his mysterious benching.
"During Super Bowl week I never attended any concert, missed curfew, or participated [in] any of the ridiculous activities being reported," he wrote. "They are not only false, but hurtful, to me and my family."