Malcolm Butler's mysterious benching in Super Bowl LII was not down to disciplinary reasons, according to Devin McCourty, who says the New England Patriots team knew all week that the cornerback would not play.
After playing 98 per cent of defensive snaps during the regular season, Butler – in a shock development – did not play any as the Pats lost a thriller to the Philadelphia Eagles in Minnesota earlier this month.
That prompted speculation over whether the cornerback was being punished for breaches of team rules, but safety McCourty does not believe any of the theories that have surfaced since the big game, revealing the benching was no surprise to those on the team.
Why didn't Malcolm Butler play in Super Bowl 52? pic.twitter.com/5oHoHMF9mX— NFL UK (@NFLUK) February 10, 2018
"As far as I know, all of that is the furthest thing from the truth," McCourty said to NJ Advance Media when asked if Butler was left out due to a disciplinary breach.
"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, who just a few years ago became an instant Patriots legend when he intercepted Russell Wilson to seal a win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, played just one special teams snap against the Eagles.
The 27-year-old, who is now expected to leave the Pats during free agency, publicly denied allegations he was benched for missing curfew, and branded some reports over his activities in the week leading up to the Super Bowl as "ridiculous, false and hurtful".
"It sucked for him," added McCourty. "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."