FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Veteran cornerback Malcolm Butler, whose first stint with the New England Patriots began with a dramatic game-sealing interception in Super Bowl XLIX and ended with a shocking benching in Super Bowl LII, expressed surprise Monday that he's landed back with the team a second time.
"I didn't expect to come back to New England," Butler said after taking part in the first day of the team's voluntary offseason program.
"But one thing I learned, you never burn your bridges down. You handle situations as a man, as a grown-up. If I didn't do that, I don't think I would have an opportunity to come back here."
Butler signed a two-year contract worth up to $9 million on March 23, which ended his one-year retirement after he had joined the Arizona Cardinals in 2021. Butler said Patriots coach Bill Belichick was the catalyst for his return.
"It came as a surprise, it really did. My agent [Derek Simpson] told me Bill wanted to talk with me. I was happy. I started working out immediately, because I knew it could be a possibility that I could return," Butler said.
When the two talked, Butler said Belichick simply asked if he was "locked in" after a year off, and that they had already addressed his Super Bowl benching after that game in February of 2018.
Butler, 32, said he is confident that he will quickly return to his prior form.
"I'm confident I got it. I've worked hard. I didn't sit on the couch all offseason," said Butler, who is a top candidate to replace former starter J.C. Jackson, who signed with the Los Angeles Chargers as a free agent. "I'm confident in myself, and I wouldn't be here if the Patriots didn't think the same. I'll defeat [those] odds, I'm telling you that now."
Of his retirement from the Cardinals, Butler said: "Belichick would always say 'do what's best for the team' and at that time I think I did what was best for me and my family. If you're not prepared mentally, you can't do nothing physically. So I think I made the right decision doing that.
"I came out of retirement because I love the game of football. I'm blessed to have another opportunity to play, thanks to the Patriots."