Most teams are busy formulating draft plans ahead of the 2018 NFL season, but one squad is still dwelling on the heartbreak of last season.
The New England Patriots fell 41-33 to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII, and many players are apparently still fuming over head coach Bill Belichick's decision to bench one of the team's best defensive players, Malcolm Butler. The reason for the benching is still unclear, with Belichick remaining coy about the situation.
"I have my thoughts about it because I was out there putting my blood, sweat and tears out on the field that night, and one of our best players wasn't on the field," former Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola told ESPN. "To tell you the truth, I don't know why. I did ask, but I didn't get any answers. I can't make decisions like that, so I don't necessarily worry about it, but I know Malcolm is a great player and he could have helped us win. For whatever reason, he wasn't out there. He's going to play more football in his career, and he's going to be a great player for a long time."
Butler was never told why he was banished to the sidelines by the legendary coach, but speculates it was due to an illness he was suffering from at the time. Belichick may have feared the cornerback wasn't fully up to speed on the game plan.
Asked if he sensed the Butler decision hurt his Patriots teammates, Amendola said, "Yeah, I did, honestly. Nobody really got an explanation for it. He's a brother of ours. He was a brother of ours that year. And I hate to see a guy who worked so hard throughout the season not get a chance to play in the biggest game of the year and really get no explanation for it. With that said, I don't know how the business aspect went into that decision. I don't know how the personal aspect went into that decision between him and Bill. But as a friend, I would have loved to see him on the field that day."
Belichick's resume speaks for itself on the football field. He's won the Super Bowl seven times - five times as a head coach and twice as a defensive coordinator. Add three Coach of the Year awards and a career 250-118 record as a head coach, and Belichick is certainly a lock for the Hall of Fame. Still, though, he remains unpopular with some players.
"It's not easy, that's for sure. He's an a--h--- sometimes," Amendola exclaimed. "There were a lot of things I didn't like about playing for him, but I must say, the things I didn't like were all in regards to getting the team better, and I respected him. I didn't like practicing in the snow, I didn't like practicing in the rain, but that was going to make us a better football team and that was going to make me a better football player. It wasn't easy, and he'd be the first to admit, at the [Super Bowl] ring ceremony, that it wasn't easy playing for him. The silver lining was that we were at the ring ceremony."
Amendola and Butler have both made the decision to move on from the Patriots this offseason. Amendola signed a two-year deal with the Miami Dolphins, and Butler inked a five-year contract with the Tennessee Titans.