FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Hours after the Super Bowl ended in February, Eric Rowe heard the noise. It was loud and full of hate. His mentions on Twitter filled up. He tweeted the next morning to say he at least knew who his real supporters were. The tweet currently has 368 comments – some positive and a lot negative.

Rowe had his name dragged through the mud for a coaching choice that he didn’t make. In the days, weeks and months after Patriots Coach Bill Belichick decided to bench cornerback Malcolm Butler and replace him with Rowe, Rowe continued to hear his critics.

A tumultuous offseason led to Rowe having a good offseason where he’s feeling confident and improved. And it really shouldn’t be a surprise. After a tough start in the Super Bowl, Rowe was actually one of the Patriots best players on defense.

Of course, no one wants to talk about that.

“I had a lot of comments coming left and right,” Rowe said. “I kind of feel like, the people who actually watched the game kind of knew (how I played). The only play I gave up was that perfect pass in the end zone. I know that third down – that third down hurt. It hurt me, too. Other than that, I think I had a couple pass breakups, a couple tackles. But that’s how the game works.”

Rowe will always be a part of the Butler benching storyline. He struggled in the first quarter – giving up a 34-yard touchdown to Alshon Jeffery. The pass from Nick Foles was perfect, as was the catch. After the coaching staff had Stephon Gilmore shift over to cover Jeffrey, Rowe settled down.

In the first quarter, Rowe gave up three receptions on four targets for 66 yards. After the second Eagles series, Rowe allowed one catch on five passes for 14 yards. He finished with two deflections. Of course, the touchdown pass and a third-down conversion to Zach Ertz still hurts, but Rowe said he feels stronger mentally following the aftermath.

“To me, people like my friends and family, they support me. They know I play well. My coaches know I played well,” Rowe said. “Overall, it’s something you have to get used to. Even corners like Gilmore – to start the season he had a lot of hate, and he’s a great corner. It’s one of those things you have to take and ignore.”

So far during training camp, Rowe has been lining up opposite of Gilmore and is making plays. On Monday, he deflected a Tom Brady pass in the end zone while covering Rob Gronkowski. The day before that, he intercepted Danny Etling and broke up a pass while covering Chris Hogan.

Part of his improvement comes from experience. Rowe was a safety for most of his career. His second year playing cornerback was his rookie season in 2015. Entering 2018, he finally feels like a cornerback. He’s made improvements when it comes to reading the body language of receivers when they run certain routes and reading quarterbacks.

He finally feels confident in the secondary. Maybe people will start to notice. Or maybe they won’t. After the Super Bowl, positive or negative comments won’t affect this cornerback.

“You just have to build thicker skin,” Rowe said. “If you let that stuff take over, shoot, then you’ll be out of this league. Then you’ll be sitting at home like, ‘why did I let fans take over my game?’ You have to build thick skin, just take it, ignore it and keep playing.”

THE PATRIOTS announced Wednesday afternoon that they had released wide receiver Jordan Matthews and signed rookie free agent fullback Henry Poggi.

Matthews, who signed a 1-year, $1 million deal in April, reportedly suffered a significant hamstring injury during practice on Sunday.

His release hurts a receiver depth charte that has a ton of question marks. Kenny Britt remains on the physically unable to perform list, and third-year wideout Malcolm Mitchell has yet to take a snap in camp.

RIGHT TACKLE Marcus Cannon didn’t participate in 11-on-11 drills Wednesday, and rookie running back Sony Michel left practice after he appeared to suffer a lower-body injury.

Other players who didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice included Mike Gillislee, Matthew Slater, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, Nate Ebner, Keion Crossen and John Atkins.