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Malcolm Butler returns to Pats' minicamp after skipping OTAs

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, whose absence was notable during a voluntary organized team activity on May 26, was present for the first day of the team's mandatory minicamp Tuesday.

Butler had taken part in the team's "Fantasy Camp" for team sponsors at Gillette Stadium the day before his absence on May 26. The Super Bowl XLIX hero, who two weeks earlier had played in a community basketball game with teammates, was one of 17 players not on the field for the voluntary workout.

On Tuesday, he described his May 26 absence May 26 as a "big misunderstanding" and added that he had some "off the field issues."

Asked to specify, he said, "family issue, or something like that."

After earning a Pro Bowl berth in 2015, his first year as a full-time starter, Butler has told teammates and friends that he is planning to push for an adjustment to his contract in 2016, sources said. How far he's willing to push remains a question.

Butler, 26, enters the third and final year of the contract he signed as an undrafted free agent out of West Alabama, which will pay him a base salary of $600,000 in 2016. That deal had no signing bonus and base salaries of $420,000 in 2014 and $510,000 in 2015.

On his contract status, Butler said Tuesday, "It is what it is. I'm going to play hard, no matter what."

The Patriots selected Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones with their top draft pick this year (second round, 60th overall), adding another highly touted player to the defensive backfield. Butler remains the team's top option at the position, opposite returning starter Logan Ryan, who is also in the last year of his contract.

Butler is scheduled to become a restricted free agent after the 2016 season, which means he wouldn't be free to sign with any team. Restricted free agents receive either a first-round, second-round or right-of-first-refusal tender from their team.

Another club can sign a restricted free agent to an offer sheet, and in each case, the player's original club has the right to match it. If the original club does not match, it would receive compensation aligned with its tender offer -- a first-round tender means the team receives a first-round pick, a second-round tender means the team receives a second-round pick and a right-of-first refusal means the team receives a draft pick that is the round in which the player entered the NFL.

The Patriots would likely tender Butler at the first-round level, should it reach that point.

Asked about his contract in May on sports radio WEEI, Butler said, "I'm not going to discuss that right now. Whenever the time comes, it comes. I'm a football player. I'm not a GM."