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The Malcolm Butler benching is still really confusing

The soon-to-be free agent would seem to have played his final game with the Patriots.

The New England Patriots’ decision to bench starting cornerback Malcolm Butler in the biggest game of the year continues to baffle me. Butler led the team in defensive snaps this season, and played zero special teams snaps. In Super Bowl 52, he played zero defensive snaps and one special teams snap.

Former Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner called out Bill Belichick for the decision, and several Patriots players liked the post. Butler was angry after the game, saying he felt they gave up on him, and he did not know why the Patriots did what they did.

Butler was listed on the injury report with an illness on Wednesday, but was a full participant on Thursday, and not listed on Friday’s practice participation report or final injury report. That would seem to remove the illness from the equation.

After the game, Belichick said it was a coach’s decision, but would not go any further than to say they thought it gave them the best chance to win. Replacement cornerback Eric Rowe was getting starting snaps in practice this past week, but Butler was working in a variety of packages.

WEEI’s Doug Kyed took a look at the situation and remains puzzled by it. He went through all the various aspects of the story, but cannot come up with a reasonable conclusion for why the Patriots benched Butler.

This is the second post I’ve put together on the Butler situation. Butler is due to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason, and given how things closed out, it seems unlikely that he will be returning to the Patriots. I don’t know if the 49ers will make a push for him, but given their need at cornerback, it would not be surprising to see him on the team’s radar. We’ll be keeping an eye out for further developments on this bizarre story.