New England Patriots captain Devin McCourty spoke out over the weekend on head coach Bill Belichick's controversial decision to bench cornerback Malcolm Butler for all but one play of this year's Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Butler, the hero of the Patriots' 2015 Super Bowl win, was on the field for just one special teams play of the 41-33 loss to the Eagles, a game where one defensive stop could have swung the game. Butler was visibly upset by his lack of playing time afterward, telling ESPN's Mike Reiss, "They gave up on me. (Expletive). It is what it is."
In a statement on Twitter and Instagram two days later, he attempted to dispel rumors that he was held out of the game due to missing curfew.
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In an interview with NJ Advance Media, McCourty backed up his teammate, saying he doesn't believe the benching was for disciplinary reasons.
"As far as I know, all of that is the furthest thing from the truth," he said. "We all knew he wasn't starting all week. That wasn't a secret to the guys on the team."
Belichick has said little about the reasons behind Butler's benching, calling it a coaching decision and not related to discipline.
"I get why people are fishing," McCourty said. "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 went on to call Butler a "great teammate" and said the worst part was seeing all of the anonymous reports come out about why Butler didn't play in the Super Bowl.
Butler is an unrestricted free agent and is not expected to re-sign with the Patriots.