Malcolm Butler's benching, a Super Bowl mystery

There was no prior indication Belichick would bench Butler, given he'd played nearly 98% of the defensive snaps in the regular season and took all snaps after his later arrival in Minneapolis.

Kahron Spearman

The most intriguing element of Super Bowl LII wasn't what occurred on the field, but on the sideline, where Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler resided except for a lone special teams snap.

Butler, he of the legendary interception of Russell Wilson in Super Bowl XLIX, did not play a single snap of Sunday's game. 

"They gave up on me," he said. "F--k. It is what it is."

He had the sound of a player that knows he hadn't enjoyed a great season by anyone's standards. Even with that thought - though he'd arrived late to Minneapolis after two hospital stays with flu-like symptoms - he was scheduled to play. He had taken all the practice snaps after his arrival to Minnesota. 

In fact, he'd be on the field for nearly 98% of the defensive snaps.

Asked [Bill Belichick] if Malcolm Butler didn't play because of a disciplinary decision. He said "no." So it was strictly football? "Yes."

Tom E. Curran
Pats insider, NBC Sports Boston

Cornerback Eric Rowe was surprised by his start, saying it wasn't official until kickoff. Bill Belichick says it wasn't disciplinary, and a football-related decision. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia gave no answers. 

One wonders what exactly transpired for Butler to be punished in such a way - because it was some level of discipline, of something wholly awful.

As Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports (Boston) said in a column: "Whatever Butler did, it better rise to the level of insubordination that makes a forfeited championship worth it."