Former New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler told the Boston Herald on Wednesday that he was never given a reason for why he didn't play in Super Bowl LII, but he reiterated that he has no hard feelings toward his former team.
Butler, who agreed to a deal with the Titans this week, hasn't spoken with Patriots coach Bill Belichick since the Super Bowl, he told the Herald.
"I never got a reason," Butler said. "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.
"But Bill Belichick has been doing this for a very long time. 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 [against the Eagles]. 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."
Butler was replaced in the starting lineup by Eric Rowe in Super Bowl LII. The Patriots primarily played a three-safety nickel package in the game, but when they added a sixth defensive back in their dime package, they initially had safety Jordan Richards on the field in the first half before tapping cornerback Johnson Bademosi for that role in the second half.
The Eagles totaled 161 yards against the dime defense in the first half (they were 6-of-8 on third down against it), and Bademosi missed a tackle on the initial third down of the second half.
Immediately after the Super Bowl, Butler was emotional about not playing on defense, saying, "They gave up on me ... It was a coach's decision. ... I don't know what it was. I guess I wasn't playing good. They didn't feel comfortable. I could have changed that game, though.
"I was just doing my job supporting my teammates. I had nothing but great things to say about the organization. Great organization. They gave me the opportunity."
Butler later issued a statement thanking the organization and disputing rumors about why he didn't play in the game.
He also told the Herald that he has heard from Pats quarterback Tom Brady several times since the game.
"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."