From a New England Patriots perspective, the biggest story after the team's Super Bowl 52 loss against the Philadelphia Eagles was the benching of starting cornerback Malcolm Butler. After playing more than 98% of defensive snaps throughout the team's first 18 games of the season, Butler was only one the field for one special teams snap while his teammates gave up 41 points to its opponent.
The move was a head-scratcher and one that fueled speculation and “hot takes” in the days that followed: Butler was benched for disciplinary reasons. He was caught with weed and missed curfew multiple times. Head coach Bill Belichick sacrificed a Super Bowl to prove a point. No matter how absurd, radio hosts, analysts and fans alike joined the chorus of anger and confusion.
The media frenzy that was created after Super Bowl Sunday was not lost on members of the team as a recent interview with safety Devin McCourty shows. The defensive team captain spoke to NJ.com's Ryan Dunleavy about the speculation and denied rumors about Butler's benching being because of discipline imposed by head coach Bill Belichick.
“As far as I know, all of that is the furthest thing from the truth,” McCourty recently said at a fundraiser. “We all knew he wasn’t starting all week. That wasn’t a secret to the guys on the team. [...] I get why people are fishing. The guy played 98 percent of the plays. I just hate that for him character-wise going into free agency. It’s just not true. As far as I know – and I was there all week – not one time did anything come up.”
McCourty continued talking how it “sucked” for Butler to basically miss the Super Bowl but that the postgame speculation was most hurtful: “To me, the worst part was to see all that stuff come out after.” Butler vehemently denied allegations of any wrongdoing on his part via an Instagram post following the game and none of his teammates or coaches have said anything else since the game.
Despite all that, the speculation and questions about Butler will certainly continue.