New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler defends a pass to Tennessee Titans receiver Corey Davis during their AFC playoff game in January. Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo
Cornerback Malcolm Butler told Sports Illustrated TV that he wanted to confront New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick or then-defensive coordinator Matt Patricia during Super Bowl LII.
Butler, who has since signed a five-year, $61 million contract with the Tennessee Titans, was angry that he was effectively benched in the Patriots' 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Feb. 4. He said he was tempted to ask for an explanation from either Belichick or Patricia for being benched -- except for one special teams play -- against the Eagles after participating in every snap of the AFC Championship Game.
"There was times when I was on the sideline and I just wanted to go up and say to Belichick or Matt Patricia and just say, 'Is this how we're gonna end this?'" Butler said. "I grew up in the Patriots system and I'm a man of God. I respect my authority and I just couldn't ask them for something they didn't want to do. I just was doing my job.
"I was close to going up there and saying what I wanted to say to Matt or Belichick, but I just stayed in my lane and just did my job. And I really wanted to go ask them, but I didn't."
Belichick offered the following on Sunday when asked about Butler, per ESPN:
"I have a lot of respect for Malcolm," Belichick said. "From the day he got here, in rookie minicamp four years ago, he's always competed as hard as he could. He always is a great competitor on the field. I totally respect that.
"I'm not going to get into last year, I'm not going to get into next year or some other year. I talked to Malcolm. I wish him well in Tennessee. Obviously, Mike (Vrabel, head coach) and Jon (Robinson, general manager) are great people I have a lot of respect for in that organization. I have a lot of respect for Malcolm. We wish him well."
Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Butler was benched for multiple issues -- including an illness, "a rough week of practice" and a curfew violation.
The other lingering question is whether Butler believes the Patriots would have won Super Bowl LII if he had played.
"I never missed a game," Butler said, according to NESN. "Never missed practice or anything like that. Would we have won if I played? Probably. Maybe. I'm not sure. But I would say we were short about one or two plays, and I saw a couple plays out there I could have made."
Butler, at least, has one significant memory from a Super Bowl appearance. He made a game-winning interception in the closing seconds of the victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX following the 2014 season.
Over the past three seasons, Butler started 47 of 48 regular-season games for New England and seven of eight postseason games. He intercepted eight passes in that three-year span and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015.