Patriots' Malcolm Butler refutes rumors for Super Bowl benching in social media post

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler took to social media on Tuesday to refute rumors of possible reasons he didn't play on defense in Super Bowl LII.

Meanwhile, sources tell ESPN that it was known within parts of the team in the days leading up to the 41-33 loss to Philadelphia that Butler's role would at least be diminished.

"During my four year career [with] the Patriots I have always given it everything I have to play at a high level, and would never do anything to hurt my teams' chances of winning a game, including this year's Super Bowl where I visited with my family every night," he wrote. "During Super Bowl week I never attended any concert, missed curfew, or participated [in] any of the ridiculous activities being reported. They are not only false, but hurtful, to me and my family.

"Although I wish I could have contributed more to help my team win, I have to get ready for the next opportunity. Moving forward I will do what I have always done to work hard, and prepare for next season to be the best I can be on and off the field."

Butler is an unrestricted free agent.

The Patriots' decision not to play him in Super Bowl LII was puzzling, considering he had played in 97.8 percent of the defensive snaps in the regular season. But while the decision was a major surprise to outsiders, it wasn't a shock to one high-ranking member of the organization who told ESPN that he was aware Butler wouldn't play a major role at least a day or two before the game.

That was consistent with what two of the team's captains said after the game -- that they knew Butler wasn't going to be a significant part of the game plan.

Why that was the case remains unknown, although one person who was at each of the team's practices leading up to the Super Bowl relayed that Butler struggled with what the Patriots were asking him to do against the Eagles' complex scheme. Couple those struggles with a regular season that Butler admitted wasn't his best, and it might have been part of coach Bill Belichick's decision-making process.

In Butler's tweet, he also thanked Patriots ownership and the team's coaches for the opportunity to "play for one of the most successful organizations in sports." He also thanked his teammates, writing, "We have won a lot of games together, and all I know is winning!"

Several Patriots players have liked and/or commented on Butler's Instagram post, including quarterback Tom Brady, who wrote, "Love you Malcolm. You are an incredible player and teammate and friend. Always!!!!!!"