Malcolm Butler tries to explain why Bill Belichick benched him in the Super Bowl

Malcolm Butler's career with the Patriots essentially began in Super Bowl XLIX, when he picked off Russell Wilson's goal line slant to preserve their fourth Super Bowl. It ended in Super Bowl LII, when Bill Belichick shockingly benched Butler before their loss to the Eagles, during which they surrendered 41 points. It's been more than a month since that game and we still don't have an explanation behind Butler's benching. 

Butler hasn't gotten one either. On Wednesday, after signing a monster contract with the Titans in free agency, Butler tried to explain Belichick's decision during a conversation with the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe. In doing so, he revealed that Belichick never provided him with an explanation. Howe reported that Butler hasn't spoken to Belichick since leaving Minnesota.

"I never got a reason," Butler told Howe. "I feel like this was the reason. I got kind of sick. I went to the hospital. They probably thought I was kind of late on the game plan; I wasn't as locked in as I should be and could have been a matchup deal. It could have been anything."

Butler did skip Opening Night with an illness, but at the time, there weren't any indications that he wouldn't log a single defensive snap in the game.  

It doesn't sound like Butler is holding any hard feelings, though. He pointed to Belichick's out of nowhere decision to play him back in Super Bowl XLIX as a reason why he "could never question his decision."

"But Bill Belichick has been doing this for a very long time," he said. "He took a veteran out of Super Bowl XLIX (against the Seahawks) and put in a first-year rookie, and that turned out right, so you could never question his decision. It didn't work out right. It didn't work out the best for me or him or the New England Patriots. But I can say he won more than he lost, so it is what it is. I always have love for New England, Bill Belichick, Mr. Kraft, all those guys. Life just goes on."

That's quite the reversal in tone. In the immediate aftermath of the game, an emotional Butler told ESPN's Mike Reiss and Adam Schefter that the Patriots "gave up on me."

"F---. It is what it is," he said at the time.

Later, Butler denied breaking team rules in the week leading up to the Super Bowl while his teammates, including Tom Brady, publicly supported him. Butler told Howe that Brady has been calling to check up on him this offseason.

"It means a lot," Butler said. "I got several calls from Tom Brady before the Titans contract. After the Super Bowl, I got a couple calls from him. He was really concerned, and he just wanted to know what was going on or whatever.

"I really appreciate that from him."

Now, Butler is a member of the Titans, signing a five-year deal that's worth more than $61 million, which is pretty much the best way to rebound from a devastating Super Bowl. Belichick is left scrambling to fill the voids left by Butler, running back Dion Lewis, and left tackle Nate Solder, all of whom departed in free agency. Meanwhile, Brady is chugging beers on late-night TV. 

As Butler said, "life just goes on."

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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