NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The question just keeps coming, and Malcolm Butler still has the same answer.
No, the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback does not know why Patriots coach Bill Belichick benched him at the Super Bowl in February .
Butler said Sunday he never got an explanation for being benched in the Super Bowl after starting 15 games during the regular season and two playoff games. He came off the bench to seal New England’s Super Bowl victory in 2015 with an interception as a rookie, and he started the Patriots’ overtime win over Atlanta for a second Super Bowl ring a year ago.
“Coach’s decision,” Butler said.
For his part, Belichick has never really explained why Butler was benched either . Belichick dodged questions again when the Patriots opened training camp this week, focusing only on this season.
Butler didn’t hang around either. He left the Patriots in March, signing a five-year deal with more than $30 million guaranteed with the Tennessee Titans. The move allowed Butler to rejoin former New England cornerback Logan Ryan, who signed with Tennessee in March 2017. The memory of being benched is driving Butler with his new team.
“I’m on fire I can tell you that,” Butler said. “But I’m past that. I’m a Tennessee Titan, and I’m just ready to ball for the Titans.”
When the Titans visited with Butler in free agency, new head coach Mike Vrabel told the cornerback to keep approaching his job every day like the undrafted rookie he once was.
“He’s close to doing that all the time,” Vrabel said. “There’s a time or two that he takes a play off, and I’ve got to remind him, but he is just a competitive player, and I admire that about him. He fights to finish.”
Watching Butler through the first four days of training camp, it’s safe to say the man who watched the Patriots lose the Super Bowl from the sideline may be even more motivated with his newest team. Butler chased down wide receiver Corey Davis after being beaten to punch the ball loose at the 2-yard line.
Butler set the tone not only for himself but the rest of the team on the opening day of camp during 1-on-1 drills against wide receivers. Butler went up against Davis, the fifth overall pick in 2017 and the first receiver selected in that draft, and intercepted Marcus Mariota’s pass. Butler then punted the ball in the air , yelling he was showing everyone how he would earn his money.
That interception followed by the punt didn’t come at the spur of the moment either.
“I think I planned that the day I signed my contract,” Butler said. “So just a little fired up. Get everybody going, show my attitude, my intensity, what I bring and wasn’t disrespect to the offense or anything like that. I’m just being me.”
Butler has nine career interceptions with 56 passes defended while with New England. He joins a Titans defense that ranked 22nd in the NFL last season with 12 interceptions — eight by All-Pro safety Kevin Byard. Both Ryan and Adoree Jackson, who started every game last season as a rookie, are going into their second seasons.
The Titans host the Patriots on Nov. 11, giving Butler a chance to face his old team and coach this season.
For now, the cornerback who played at West Alabama has been very visible every day at camp whether he’s pulling in interceptions or knocking balls out to break up catches. Butler said actions speak louder than words.
“Just like I tell the young guys, a play a day (will) keep the coach away,” Butler said.
Notes: Vrabel said LB Brian Orakpo, who left practice after banging his shoulder against TE Luke Stocker on Friday, likely will be out a week. Vrabel had no update on rookie LB Rashaan Evans, the No. 22 pick overall, who left early Saturday. Davis was given the day off for rest.
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