Butler spent the 2021 season on the reserve/retired list after signing with the Arizona Cardinals and practicing with them throughout training camp and the preseason. At the time, Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said "personal" matters led to Butler being placed on the list.
The Cardinals released Butler from the reserve/retired list on Feb. 17, which freed Butler to sign with any team and ultimately led him back to New England, where he started his NFL career in 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of West Alabama.
Butler, now 32, was the hero of the team's 28-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. His interception at the goal line in the final minute is one of the iconic plays in franchise and NFL history.
Then-Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores' sideline call to insert Butler into the game for the play -- "Malcolm, go!" -- is also a signature part of New England sports lore.
Butler had departed the Patriots as a free agent after the 2017 season, signing a five-year, $61.25 million contract with the Tennessee Titans. His final game as a Patriot was notable, as he didn't play a defensive snap in the team's 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII despite the team struggling to slow down quarterback Nick Foles and the high-flying Eagles offense.
Coach Bill Belichick never gave a detailed explanation for why Butler -- who had battled illness in the days leading up to the Super Bowl and flew separately to the Super Bowl at a later date -- played only on special teams.
Butler lasted three seasons in Tennessee -- playing in 42 games (including playoffs) and totaling nine interceptions -- before moving on to Arizona.