MINNEAPOLIS — Bill Belichick apparently does not have time to explain why he benched cornerback Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII on Sunday.
“I appreciate the question, but it would be a much longer discussion,” Belichick said in a Monday conference call after the Patriots’ 41-33 loss to the Eagles. “There are a lot of things that go into that. In the end, the final decision is what I said it was.”
Which was, oddly, that they wanted to use other players in the secondary and not one who played more than 97 percent of the defensive snaps during the season. Belichick said he thought that not playing Butler, whose interception won Super Bowl XLIX for the Patriots, gave them “the best chance to win.”
After Sunday’s game, Belichick denied that the decision had anything to do with player discipline.
Butler said he felt as if the Patriots “gave up on me.” He said he believed he could have made a difference for the team in a game with the most combined yardage in NFL history.
“I respect Malcolm’s competitiveness and I’m sure he felt he could’ve helped,” Belichick said Monday. “I’m sure other players felt the same way. In the end, we have to make the decisions that we feel are best for the football team.”
Former Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner wrote on Instagram that the Patriots were split before the Super Bowl because of the benching.
“A locker room was divided pregame, most yds ever given up in a SB game, and your best defender over the past 3 seasons. Doesn’t get a snap,” Browner wrote on Instagram after the game. “You were hurt/burnt where he was needed tonight. #foolishpride.”
Browner’s post was liked by current Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who is out with an injury.
Butler had started in 47 of 48 games the last three seasons for the Patriots and is considered their best corner, yet he was standing on the sideline in tears during the national anthem because he was told he wasn’t playing. The Patriots started Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore at corner.
Butler played just one special-teams snap and no defensive snaps. He stood on the sideline with his helmet on in case he was called. Butler missed last Monday’s Super Bowl Opening Night in Minneapolis with the flu and arrived separately from the team.
If that bothered Belichick, it seemed like a severe punishment for one of his best players.
In a video Instagram post, Browner said: “That dude done started every game for that team, you feel me, since he picked off that [expletive] ball off. You play every game of the season but the Super Bowl. You feel me? I can’t rock with that.”
“They gave up on me,” Butler said Sunday night. “[Expletive]. It is what it is.”