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As Malcolm Butler retires, Bill Belichick reflects on Patriots All-Decade selection’s ‘great story’

The Cardinals placed Malcolm Butler on the retired list at the 53-man deadline.

Arizona Cardinals Training Camp Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals placed cornerback Malcolm Butler on the retired list as rosters reduced to 53, for now ending an unlikely NFL run that began at New England Patriots rookie minicamp over seven years ago.

Bill Belichick praised that run Tuesday on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” when asked whether the Super Bowl XLIX interception marked the biggest play in league history, and also whether the Super Bowl LII benching marked his biggest regret as head coach.

“Malcolm — Malcolm’s a great story,” Belichick said. “I mean, you talk about a kid that’s undrafted, really couldn’t even get into a training camp. And then when we brought him up here for rookie minicamp for a tryout, he wasn’t even signed when we brought him up here. To see the fact that he had talent and to see him grow and develop as a player, as a person when he was here — what his four years as a player meant to this organization, it’s pretty impressive.”

Out of Vicksburg, Miss., Butler made stops at Hinds Community College, Alcorn State and West Alabama before making New England’s active roster in 2014. He went on to appear in 70 games with 55 starts for the organization between his regular seasons and postseasons.

The Patriots tenure spanned 242 tackles, two sacks, nine interceptions, four forced fumbles as well as Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors.

“There’s not a lot of guys that do what he does. Although J.C. Jackson has followed a similar path, but again, that’s very unusual just in terms of playing time and all that,” Belichick told WEEI. “I always enjoyed coaching Malcolm and had a lot of respect for, again, the way he competed and what he did. Very similar to David Patten, coming from nowhere, establishing and having a really good NFL career.”

Butler, who holds a place on New England’s All-Decade team, signed a five-year, $61 million deal with the Tennessee Titans as an unrestricted free agent in 2018.

“Ultimately, business is business,” added Belichick. “Sometimes players move on for better opportunities, like Malcolm did to Tennessee or David Patten did when he signed in Washington. It’s just part of the NFL. In retrospect, looking back I always try to do what’s best for the football team. That’s what I’ll continue to do. I try to look ahead, not back too much.”

Butler agreed to terms with Arizona in March following his release from Tennessee. The 31-year-old’s retirement last week was described as a “personal decision of his” by Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury.