Malcolm Butler said he and Patriots Coach Bill Belichick spoke about Belichick’s decision to bench Butler in Super Bowl LII immediately after the game. Wade Payne/Associated Press

In his first news conference since rejoining the Patriots, Malcolm Butler did not reveal why he was infamously benched for Super Bowl LII, but told reporters he and Coach Bill Belichick addressed the decision almost immediately after the game.

“I ain’t got too much to say about that, man. I’m trying to live in the present,” Butler said Monday. “You can’t think about the past all the time. So I’ve moved forward from that. I know it’ll always be there, but I haven’t said anything to anybody about anything. So you’re going to have keep doing your research or whatever you gotta do, because I’m here for the Patriots and I’m here to be peaceful.”

The veteran cornerback did not play a single defensive snap in the Patriots’ 41-33 loss to Philadelphia, despite leading the team in defensive snaps during the regular season. His playing time was limited to a single rep on punt return.

Butler later added Monday: “You keep business in-house. I shared my feelings with Bill Belichick, we had a talk about it like grown men, and that’s what we did. And that’s the past. I’m in the present now.”

Butler said he didn’t expect to ever return to New England. Six weeks after Super Bowl LII, he left for a massive free-agent deal with the Titans. Butler and Belichick spoke months later, initially meeting before and after a Patriots regular-season loss at Tennessee. Player and coach also reconvened during joint training camp practices the following summer, when Butler insisted his relationship with Belichick was in a good place.

“I’m glad me and him had a talk, and I’m glad I’ll be back,” he said Monday.

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Tennessee released him for salary-cap reasons in March 2021, which led Butler to sign a 1-year deal with the Cardinals. But the 32-year-old never played a snap for Arizona, citing personal reasons as he stepped away. Following a late March workout in Foxborough, he reached terms on a two-year, $5 million contract with the Patriots.

Butler said Belichick initiated contact with his agent about a possible return.

“It came as a surprise,” Butler said. “My agent told me Bill wanted to talk with me, so I was happy. I started working out immediately, because I knew it could be a possibility that I could return. … Just blessed to be here. I’m dedicated, and I’m committed.”

Butler also worked out for the Texans. According to the two-time Super Bowl champion, his conversations with Belichick this spring pertained mostly to his new contract, not how sourly his first stint with the team had ended. After the deal was done, Belichick spoke about their reunion during a press conference at the NFL’s annual owners meetings.

“He indicated a desire to play this year. We worked through the process with Malcolm like we do with every player. Obviously we know him, but he came up and visited a week and half ago. So, we signed him,” Belichick said. “Looking forward to having him back.”

Looking back on his brief retirement, Butler only said he managed to right himself mentally, which prompted his comeback. During his last full NFL season, Butler posted career highs with 11 tackles and four interceptions. Asked Monday if he believes he’s still that player from 2020, Butler confirmed as much with a resounding “yes, sir.”

“I’m confident I got it. I’ve worked hard,” he said. “I didn’t sit on the couch all offseason … I’ll defeat (those) odds, I’m telling you now.”

As for coming full circle in New England, where originally he emerged as an undrafted star with a goal-line interception that clinched Super Bowl XLIX, Butler repeatedly cited two things: the Patriots and his personal growth, which not only allowed for a return to football, but for him to come home.

“The one thing I learned, you never burn your bridges down,” Butler said. “You handle situations as a man and as a grown-up. If I didn’t do that, I don’t think I’d have an opportunity to come back here. So I’m pretty sure I made a good decision by acting like a grown man.”


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