The Malcolm Butler story has taken another surprising twist: from Super Bowl hero to being kept on the sideline for voluntary organized team activities.
Butler, whose goal-line interception sealed a Super Bowl XLIX victory for the New England Patriots, was late for the first organized team activities practice May 26 because his flight to Boston the night before was canceled due to weather issues, according to a source close to the situation. Pats coach Bill Belichick had kept Butler off the field until this week, the source said.
The cornerback has been attending all meetings, film sessions and weight-training sessions, and he might be close to returning to practice as early as Thursday, when reporters are scheduled to be present.
The Boston Herald earlier reported the nature of Butler's on-field absence.
Butler is viewing the situation as a lesson learned and in the future intends to fly a day earlier, the source said.
The Patriots are hoping Butler can use his Super Bowl performance as a springboard to assume a larger role in 2015. He played 16.6 percent of the defensive snaps last season, but with 2014 starters Darrelle Revis (Jets) and Brandon Browner (Saints) now elsewhere, there's a significant void to be filled.
Belichick's no-tolerance policy with players being on time is well documented; most recently with Revis and running back Jonas Gray being sent home from the team facility during the 2014 regular season for arriving late.
Over his 16 years as coach, it's one of the primary messages he stresses with players, noting that unpredictable weather is part of living in New England and to always plan accordingly with a larger margin for error.
However, this is believed to be the first time Belichick has sidelined a player for multiple weeks in a voluntary setting.