Malcolm Butler wasted no time in addressing the matter that was on people’s minds at his introductory press conference with the Tennessee Titans on Thursday.
The cornerback in his opening remarks addressed his side of the story regarding his benching in Super Bowl LII, which his New England Patriots lost to the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I’m pretty sure everyone wants to know the questions about Super Bowl LII,” said Butler, who agreed Tuesday to a five-year, $61 million deal with $30 million in guarantees. As I said once before, it was all a coach’s decision, and I’ve never questioned anything that Bill Belichick makes his decision on. I made a statement yesterday that he benched a four-year vet for a rookie, and that turned out right.
“I’m just very grateful and thankful for the opportunity the New England Patriots gave me. They groomed me as a player and even more as a person. I really appreciate the Krafts and the organization.”
In terms of the benching, Butler said he was not feeling well during the week, but said he accepts full responsibility for what happened.
“I wasn’t feeling too well. I felt like that was kind of part of it. Not to blame anybody. I accept full responsibility myself. I’m not blaming the New England Patriots or no one,” Butler said. “It could have been just me. It could have been anything. I wasn’t feeling too well, and the New England Patriots are all about doing your job and they want everybody locked in and focused 100 percent and that probably was not the case. But I’m glad to be a Tennessee Titan.”
Butler, who had been the Patriots’ Super Bowl hero three years earlier with his goal-line interception of Russell Wilson, said the topic of the benching was never brought up by Titans general manager Jon Robinson or new head coach Mike Vrabel, both of whom have strong ties to the Patriots’ organization themselves.
“They didn’t bother to bring it up,” Butler said. “I definitely thought there were some bad rumors that were out there, but you can’t let that get to you. You can’t control it. You just have to let it blow over and have tough skin.”
In his own mind, Butler has already moved on from the benching.
“I just keep my faith and belief in God and I’m here right now blessed and with another team. I just kept moving forward and it is what it is. It just made me better and stronger,” he said. “Pain don’t last long. It’s like a scab on your arm. It’s going to hurt for a little bit and then it’s gone.”
Butler comes to the Titans and will slide in as the team’s top cornerback, being paired with second-year pro Adoree’ Jackson and his former Patriots teammate Logan Ryan, who is expected to move into the nickelback role.
Butler, who is from Vicksburg, Miss., and attended Alcorn State for a time before ending up at West Alabama, said he grew up as a big fan of former Titans quarterback Steve McNair.
“I’m a big Steve McNair fan. I attended Hines Community Colege and after that I went to Alcorn and I always looked up to him. He’s from Mississippi and I always look up to anybody that’s made it to the NFL from Mississippi,” Butler said.