Super Bowl LII was played 15 days ago, but the Malcolm Butler saga continues.
New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty said Sunday that he and his teammates knew well ahead of time that Butler would not start in the Super Bowl, won by the Philadelphia Eagles 41-33 in Minneapolis.
"We all knew he wasn't starting all week. That wasn't a secret to the guys on the team," McCourty told NJ Advance Media while at a fundraiser for his Tackle Sickle Cell charity.
McCourty was disappointed that rumors flew about Butler despite New England coach Bill Belichick telling reporters after the Super Bowl that Butler's benching wasn't disciplinary.
"I get why people are fishing,'' McCourty said. "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.
"It (stunk) for him. He put a lot of time and effort in. However it falls, the last thing you want to do is not play a snap. To me, the worst part was to see all that (anonymous) stuff come out after."
Patriots cornerback Eric Rowe, who replaced Butler in the lineup and played 72 of the 75 defensive snaps, had previously said it was a gametime decision for him to start. He also said "that wasn't the plan'' for Butler not to play.
McCourty had nothing but praise for Butler.
"Great teammate," McCourty said. "It's cool for me to see. He came in as an undrafted rookie in 2014 and didn't know a thing about playing in the NFL or life as a NFL player. He's grown so much."
Butler burst onto the scene with his game-winning interception in New England's 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. He is considered to be one of the most sought after cornerbacks when free agent shopping officially begins next month.