What did Butler learn from Revis during their time together as teammates in 2014?
A lot, naturally, with Butler saying film study and preparation topped the list, along with the importance of never panicking and losing confidence on the field.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Butler, whose stunning rise from undrafted free agent from West Alabama to Super Bowl hero and now top corner, is making a similar impression on some younger teammates who are looking to him in the same way he did to players like Revis last year.
“One thing I see is that he takes a lot of notes. Whatever Coach or anyone else says that he thinks is important, he’ll write it down,” said rookie cornerback Justin Coleman, who has been thrust into the No. 3 role in recent weeks. “He’ll review his notes a lot and prepares himself well. He ran through a whole notebook already.”
Looking back, Butler said he didn’t study as much film or take as many notes as he should have while in college. He now devotes two parts of each day to film study, usually totaling about an hour altogether.
Sometimes, he said, too much film study can be counter-productive so it’s all about striking a balance.
“I’m more detailed about it, taking it more seriously since I got to the NFL,” he relayed. “It’s a big change and it helps you a lot – tendencies, what route the receiver could run in that formation, if a guy goes in motion does that give you a hint of anything? It’s about memorization and playing smart at the same time.”
This was something Revis talked about regularly during his time with the Patriots, was highlighted during the recent “60 Minutes” profile of him, and part of why Coach Bill Belichick said as recently as this week that he was a pleasure to have on the team. Belichick is a film junkie and any player that follows that same path is usually going to fit in well in New England.
As for Butler, by the end of this week he had grown tired of some reporters pushing the storyline of the link between him and Revis, respectfully saying he had nothing else to say about it.
Just listening to his teammates and coaches, however, spoke volumes.
“He’s just ready. Each day in practice, you can see that he’s on top of what he needs to know in that game-plan; he’s prepared and ready to go. That’s good when you see that from a guy only in his second year,” said safety Devin McCourty, one of the team’s captains.
Belichick, meanwhile, lauded Butler’s performance this season as he’s been on the field for 98.6 percent of the defensive snaps. Belichick added, “He does a lot of good things for us, and there is still a lot of room to improve. I don’t think he’s hit the peak, but he’s getting better.”
Meanwhile, during NBC’s broadcast of the Patriots-Colts game on Sunday night, analyst Cris Collinsworth relayed a conversation he had with Belichick: “He told us, ‘No question about it, Malcolm Butler, right now, is our best cornerback.”
That’s was Revis’ title in 2014.
Now it’s Butler and in short time his approach has earned the respect of his teammates.
“He’s a relentless competitor and takes it personal. I think it shows in his play,” fellow cornerback Logan Ryan said of Butler. “He’s getting better each and every day, each and every week. He’s showing what he can do in this league and I’m happy for him.”
“Malcolm is very hard-working and determined. He wants to be great,” added Coleman, noting how both have received opportunities to play with the Patriots despite being undrafted . “Every play he makes, he kind of expects to make that play. But I can tell, when he gets a pass breakup, he really wanted the interception instead. You can describe him as a guy who doesn’t settle for less.”
On cue, when Butler was asked some areas he thinks have been strengths for him this season, he said he’d “rather talk about things I could do better.” One of those things is to finish plays consistently, just like he did in the Super Bowl.
Now passed the torch from Revis as the Patriots’ No. 1 corner, Butler is determined to hold on to it. The two will be on the same field Sunday, this time as opponents when Revis' Jets visit the Patriots.
“You learn from Darrelle in any way, one of the greatest guys in the game,” he said. “Film study, going out there and not panicking, and having confidence.”