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Devin McCourty: “We all knew” Malcolm Butler wasn’t starting

Darin Gantt

Patriots safety Devin McCourty has heard all the theories. But unlike most people wondering why cornerback Malcolm Butler didn’t play defense in the Super Bowl, he had a hint it was coming.

“As far as I know, all of that is the furthest thing from the truth,” McCourty told Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com. “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.”

Butler played 97.8 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps during the regular season. He played one snap of special teams in the Super Bowl, as the Patriots secondary was springing leaks left and right.

That led to a number of theories as to why the Patriots would do such a thing, including rumors of disciplinary causes. But coach Bill Belichick would only say that wasn’t the case, which didn’t satisfy most reasonable questioners.

“It sucked for him,” McCourty said. “He put a lot of time and effort in. However it falls, the last thing you want to do is not play a snap. To me, the worst part was to see all that [anonymous] stuff come out after.”

Butler has effectively said his goodbye to the Patriots, and changed his personal narrative. He was once the guy who had a game-winning interception in the Super Bowl against the Seahawks, and now he’s the guy who couldn’t get in the game for mysterious reasons. McCourty referred to him as a “great teammate,” but that’s a past tense reference, as Butler’s headed to free agency.