When Malcolm Butler suits up on Sunday as a Tennessee Titan, the chapter on his career as a New England Patriots will officially be closed.
Not that Butler hasn’t already closed it in his mind, but, as he says, the still unexplained reason for his Super Bowl benching by Bill Belichick last February is still a topic of discussion. Not for him, but for others.
“I don’t know about everybody else, but I’ve put it behind me. Somehow it continues to chase me, but it is what it is. I’m a Tennessee Titan. I’m glad to be a Tennessee Titan, and I’ve been moved on,” said Butler, who signed a six-year, $61 million contract with the Titans in March.
Butler’s arrival helps turn what was a solid Tennessee secondary last season potentially into one that could be among the best in the NFL this season. Butler, who missed the final three preseason games while nursing a mild case of turf toe, is expected to team with his former Patriots teammate Logan Ryan and second-year pro Adoree’ Jackson to give the Titans three high level cornerbacks to work in the nickel package. Add that to All-Pro safety Kevin Byard and newcomer Kenny Vaccaro, who replaces an injured Johnathan Cyprien, and it is easy to see why the Titans are excited about their defensive backfield for 2018.
For Butler, the change of scenery and the opening of the regular season has him excited.
“It’s exciting, a brand new city, a brand new team and a brand new uniform. It’s always exciting, but you’ve got to play at a high level. But not only me, but each and every player on this team. I’m not saying preseason is not important, but this is the real deal here,” Butler said of the season beginning Sunday in Miami for the Titans.
Ryan, who came over from the Patriots organization himself in 2017, knows what Butler is going through in changing teams. But he said he figures that the preparation for that change starts the moment you sign and begin working with the new club and goes through camp and the preseason.
“In the preseason, I think I was more nervous with my new team, because that was the first time putting a new uniform on,” Ryan said. “But that’s what preseason is for, to kind of get that out of the way. But when it’s game time, it’s game time, and you have go to out there and do your job. I think by the time you get that first game, I think (the nerves are) already out of the way.”
Butler, who said early in training camp that the Super Bowl benching would provide motivation, says his goals for 2018 are embodied in the team’s success.
“Team goals come before my individual goals. I just want to win, and I just want to better myself in order to help the team win,” he said.