New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty said the team's benching of cornerback Malcolm Butler in its Super Bowl 52 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles "wasn't a secret."
"As far as I know, all of that is the furthest thing from the truth," McCourty told Ryan Dunleavy of NJ Advance Media. "We all knew he wasn't starting all week. That wasn't a secret to the guys on the team.
"I get why people are fishing. The guy played 98 percent of the plays. I just hate that for him character-wise going into free agency. It's just not true. As far as I know—and I was there all week—not one time did anything come up."
Butler was a starter for all 16 regular-season games and two playoff games for the Patriots before not playing a defensive snap in the Super Bowl. He was on the field for 97.8 percent of New England's defensive snaps during the regular season.
"They gave up on me," Butler told ESPN's Mike Reiss and Adam Schefter after the loss. "F--k. It is what it is. I don't know what it was. I guess I wasn't playing good or they didn't feel comfortable. I don't know. But I could have changed that game."
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns on his way to winning MVP honors. Foles completed 28 of his 43 attempts and had no trouble against the Patriots secondary throughout, with his only interception coming off a deflection.
"I respect Malcolm's competitiveness, and I'm sure that he felt like he could have helped," Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters. "I'm sure the players felt the same way, but in the end, we have to make the decisions that we feel are best for the football team. So we did. That's what I did. That's really all I can say about it."
Butler denied anonymous reports that his benching was due to disciplinary reasons.
"It sucked for him," McCourty said. "He put a lot of time and effort in. However it falls, the last thing you want to do is not play a snap. To me, the worst part was to see all that [anonymous] stuff come out after."
Butler is expected to leave the Patriots in free agency this offseason.