One New England Patriots player who was conspicuously absent from Sunday's Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was cornerback Malcolm Butler.
Butler, a starter for most of the season, didn't play at all in what NBC announcers said was a "coaching decision." The team could have used his coverage skills given that the Eagles were able to move the ball almost at will in the air on their way to a 41-33 victory.
Head coach Bill Belichick wasn't talking much about Butler's benching afterward, other than to say that it was a football decision and not for disciplinary reasons.
"We put the best players out there and the game plan out there that we thought would be the best tonight," he said. "Like we always do."
But Butler was visibly upset by the lack of playing time.
"They gave up on me," he told ESPN's Mike Reiss after the game. "(Expletive). It is what it is.
"I don't know what it was," Butler continued. "I guess I wasn't playing good or they didn't feel comfortable. I don't know. But I could have changed that game."
Cornerback Eric Rowe, who started in Butler's place, said he had no idea why Butler didn't play and thought he could have helped.
"He's a great player," Rowe said. "Amazing player."
Butler, 27, was the hero of the 2015 Super Bowl after his late, goal-line interception of Seattle's Russell Wilson sealed New England's improbable comeback victory.
He was a restricted free agent after last season, and was expected to be traded but wound up staying with the team. He is an unrestricted free agent after this season.