— The Sports Xchange —
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Monday addressed cornerback Malcolm Butler’s complaints about his lack of playing time in Super Bowl LII.
Butler told reporters after the Philadelphia Eagles’ 41-33 win over the Patriots that he felt he “could have changed that game” if given the chance to play.
“I respect Malcolm’s competitiveness and I am sure that he felt like he could have helped,” Belichick said on a conference call. “I am sure other players felt the same way, but in the end, we have to make the decisions that we feel are best for the football team and that is what we did, that is what I did. That’s really all I can say about it.”
When pushed for a further response as to why he felt it was the best approach, Belichick offered the following:
“I appreciate the question, but it would be a much longer discussion,” Belichick said. “There are a lot of things that go into that. In the end, the final decision is what I said it was.”
Belichick said on Sunday night that Butler’s exclusion was not a disciplinary decision, although it was a curious one since the cornerback had played on 97.8 percent of the defensive snaps in the regular season.
Butler played just one snap on special teams against Philadelphia. Butler had played all 74 snaps in the AFC Championship Game win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“They gave up on me,” an emotional Butler told espn.com as he walked to the team bus after the game. “F–. It is what it is.”
Butler was spotted near tears during the singing of the national anthem prior to the game.
Three years ago, Butler etched his place in Patriots’ lore as he became the hero in Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona, when he intercepted Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson on the goal line in the closing seconds, preserving the Pats’ 28-24 win over the Seahawks.
Butler, who will be an unrestricted free agent, is a former Pro Bowler. A former Eagle, Eric Rowe, played most of the game in Butler’s place and struggled, as did most defensive players in this offensive extravaganza. Rowe was a second-round pick of the Eagles in 2015, and was traded to New England a year later.
“We put the best players out there and the game plan out there that we thought would be the best tonight like we always do to give us the best chance to win,” Belichick said on Sunday.
“We just played all the guys we could to try to help us win in whatever packages we had,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said on Sunday. “Different situations came up, and we were just trying to move some things around. We just had a situation where we had some matchups and packages that we went with.”
Butler was absent from Media Night last week with an illness, according to the team.
Three years ago, Butler was the fifth cornerback on New England’s depth chart coming into Super Bowl XLIX but replaced Kyle Arrington, a nickel defensive back, in the third quarter. Two plays after allowing a juggling 33-yard reception to Jermaine Kearse, Butler intercepted Wilson’s pass to Ricardo Lockette at the goal line with 20 seconds left to preserve New England’s fourth Super Bowl title.