What would Super Bowl week be without mention of Malcolm Butler?
The undrafted cornerback famously helped the New England Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX with a goal-line interception. Three years later, Bill Belichick relegated Butler to the bench in New England’s Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, a decision that remains one of the great mysteries of the Patriots’ modern dynasty.
We still don’t know why Belichick didn’t play Butler in that game. But veteran safety Devin McCourty attempted to clear up the debate of when Butler was benched during an interview Friday with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich.”
“I hated when all of this came out,” McCourty said from Radio Row in Miami, “because everybody was like, ‘They found out a day before or in the locker room.’
“Nah, everyone knew that (Butler wasn’t going to play) going into the game. That wasn’t the way we practiced.”
When asked point-blank when he knew Butler wasn’t going to play, McCourty responded, “The whole Bowl prep.”
“For anybody that’s been in the New England area, do they really think we took the field and didn’t prepare like that wasn’t already the plan?” McCourty added.
In fact, many people did think Butler’s benching was a last-minute development — considering teammate Eric Rowe told reporters “that wasn’t the plan” and Butler himself said he wasn’t given a reason why he didn’t play.
McCourty told NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry right after the game — a 41-33 Patriots loss in which Nick Foles threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns — the Patriots knew going in that Butler wouldn’t play.
McCourty walked back those comments a few weeks later, saying he and his teammates knew Butler wasn’t going to start but didn’t know he wouldn’t play.
Based on what McCourty said Friday, though, his initial remarks were accurate: He and his teammates were aware the entire week that Butler wouldn’t be a major factor.
Case closed — unless Belichick decides to finally enlighten us on the whole matter. (Don’t hold your breath.)
Devin McCourty debunks Malcolm Butler Super Bowl benching narrative originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston