Malcolm Butler says Patriots 'gave up on me' after getting benched for Super Bowl

Malcolm Butler's Patriots career essentially began in Super Bowl XLIX three years ago, when he -- a no-name undrafted cornerback -- jumped a pick play and picked off Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at the goal line to preserve the Patriots' fourth championship under Bill Belichick. His Patriots career might have ended three years later in Super Bowl LII, a loss to the Eagles that he spent standing on the sidelines watching as his teammates failed to stop a Nick Foles-quarterbacked offense.

Butler was shockingly benched on Sunday. He didn't log a single defensive snap. Why? No good reason has emerged.

"They gave up on me," Butler told ESPN's Mike Reiss and Adam Schefter. "F---. It is what it is."

"I don't know what it was," he added. "I guess I wasn't playing good or they didn't feel comfortable. I don't know. But I could have changed that game."

Leading up to the game, Butler dealt with an illness and skipped Monday's Opening Night festivities. But there never were any indications that he wouldn't play. During the national anthem, he appeared to be crying.

At halftime, Patriots Bill Belichick called it a coach's decision "that gives us the best chance to win." After the game, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia danced around the topic, talking about how the team wanted to "run some packages we had for the game plan" and "the guys who were out there were out there for all the situations we needed them for." Fellow cornerback Eric Rowe said that he was surprised that he started in place of Butler because it was Butler who got the practice reps. But safety Devin McCourty said that the team knew Butler would be benched. Safety Duron Harmon told reporters to "ask coach."

In the week leading up to the game, Butler admitted that his quality of play slipped this season, telling NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that he had a "s----y season." But even he couldn't have imagined he'd be standing on the sidelines during the Super Bowl.

In 2015, Butler picked off two passes, broke up 15 passes, and allowed a 97.5 passer rating in coverage, according to Pro Football Focus. In 2016, Butler notched four picks, defended 16 passes, and allowed a 78.2 passer rating in coverage. This season, he intercepted two passes, defended 12 passes, and allowed a 96.6 passer rating in coverage. He was also one of the better tacklers in football. According to PFF, Butler ranked 17th out of 70 cornerbacks in tackling efficiency, missing six tackles. The Patriots struggled with tackling and coverage all game long, allowing 41 points and 538 yards.

Now, Butler will enter free agency. A year ago, he wanted a long-term, lucrative contract for the first time in his career, but the Patriots hit him with a first-round tender in restricted free agency. Despite drawing some interest from the Saints, Butler signed and played under his tender alongside cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who got a mega contract from the Patriots in free agency.

From 2014-16, Butler had an average salary of $510,000 per season and in 2017 he made roughly $3.9 million, which ranked 33rd among cornerbacks, according to Spotrac. Butler will turn 28 in March. So, Butler is absolutely entitled to chase money in free agency. He's never really made good NFL money in his career.

Before the Super Bowl, Butler expressed his desire to remain with the Patriots. But after what unfolded on Sunday, it'd be difficult to imagine Butler returning to New England. Butler's Patriots career began as a Super Bowl hero. It'll likely end as a Super Bowl no-show.

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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