Devin McCourty: Patriots players knew Malcolm Butler wasn't starting ahead of Super Bowl

The biggest surprise to come out of Super Bowl LII was the surprising benching of Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, who went from playing in 98 percent of the team's snaps last season to getting just a single snap during the Super Bowl loss to the Eagles. It was notable because it was all hands on deck for defensive help in a wild shootout of a game

After the game, a distraught Butler said the Patriots "gave up on me". We've been led to believe it was a "perfect storm" type of situation for Butler in terms of things that went wrong, including discipline and curfew issues.

Longtime defensive back and Bill Belichick favorite Devin McCourty told Ryan Dunleavy of NJ Advanced Media that's not the case and that the team knew he was being benched.

"As far as I know, all of that is the furthest thing from the truth," McCourty said. "We all knew he wasn't starting all week. That wasn't a secret to the guys on the team.

"I get why people are fishing. The guy played 98 percent of the plays. I just hate that for him character-wise going into free agency. It's just not true. As far as I know -- and I was there all week -- not one time did anything come up."

Eagles players and coaches certainly didn't see the discipline coming, and were stunned to see Eric Rowe starting instead. Before the Super Bowl, Butler said he "no doubt" wanted to be back with the Patriots, and admitted he had a less than stellar (perhaps you prefer "s----y"?) season.

But Butler also denied that any curfew or discipline issues got him sent to the bench in his comments a few days removed from the Super Bowl.

McCourty felt bad for his soon-to-be-former teammate, noting the timing of such rumors are not ideal for the purposes of maximizing value in free agency.

"It sucked for him," McCourty said. "He put a lot of time and effort in. However it falls, the last thing you want to do is not play a snap. To me, the worst part was to see all that [anonymous] stuff come out after."

There were some signs, perhaps: Butler did miss Opening Night because he was sick, and there was lots of talk about him leading up to the game. 

So it's possible this was discussed between Pats players and coaches ahead of time. But given the general reaction of Patriots players in the wake of the loss, it's hard to believe everyone was on the same page.

McCourty said right after the game the players knew, so it's not like his story is changing.

Perhaps everyone was aware of the situation, but not everyone was on board with the situation? The Patriots defense was not great this year; it played above its head for most of the second half of the year and the playoffs. 

The last game of the season was a sub-optimal time to have a makeover and a lot of confusion among the players, and perhaps it created some of the issues the Patriots had during their Super Bowl loss. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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