Rumors replace facts in Butler’s bizarre case

Published 7:55 am Thursday, February 8, 2018

In the absence of facts, rumor and confusion reign as king and queen.

By the time this column sees print, maybe the world will know the real story behind the New England Patriots’ bizarre decision to bench cornerback Malcolm Butler for Super Bowl LII. It’s too big a story for something definitive not to eventually come out.

Butler, the former Vicksburg High star, had played nearly every defensive snap for the Patriots on their road to the Super Bowl. On Sunday, he played none. The Patriots coaches insist it was a football decision based on the game plan. If that was the case, Butler and his teammates apparently were not aware of it until Pink was clearing her throat to sing the national anthem.

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It also doesn’t explain why Butler didn’t get on the field at all as the Patriots’ secondary was turning into a dumpster fire, why he never came in as a substitute, or never had one of the packages he was allegedly included in called for when a defensive adjustment was clearly needed.

“Butler’s Benching” might go down as one of the great unsolved mysteries in NFL history. And, naturally, whenever there is an unsolved mystery there are conspiracy theories trying to explain it.

One had head coach Bill Belichick trying to lower the soon-to-be free agent’s market value. If Belichick wanted to prove a point, it’s a move he’d pull in midseason and not minutes before the Super Bowl.

Reports surfaced that Butler violated team rules and was possibly caught with some marijuana at the team hotel. The initial sources of those were sketchy secondhand social media posts, including one from a former — not current — teammate. Butler later issued a statement denying it.

Other reports said it was a “perfect storm” of issues that snowballed — the unspecified rules violation, a bad week of practice, an illness that caused him to arrive late to Minneapolis, and other ongoing issues. That came from respected NFL Media reporter Ian Rapoport. Any one of those is plausible, although Rapoport’s report only listed “sources,” and not anyone by name. Could be people with agendas trying to cover their butts, or merely taking highly educated guesses.

That’s how Malcolm Butler’s benching becomes the NFL’s version of the JFK assassination. The people involved either have no inclination to reveal their reasoning or honestly have no idea, so rumor and confusion reign. That is indeed a perfect storm for nonsense.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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