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New England Patriots' latest punishment for star shows no-one is safe

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The New England Patriots may be dealing with a hefty punishment from the NFL at present but the reigning Super Bowl champions are no strangers to a bit of in-house discipline.

You only need to remember Jonas Gray's situation in 2014 as evidence of that. Just days after a 201 yard, four-touchdown game the running back was late to practice after sleeping through an alarm. He was all but frozen out of the team for the remainder of the season as punishment.

And it looks like the Patriots have started where they left off as they bid to retain the Championship, with a report today revealing that one of Super Bowl XLIX's biggest stars has been severely punished by the franchise over the past three weeks.

Those who have been paying close attention to the Patriots during recent OTAs may have noticed that Malcolm Butler, the man who made the critical goal-line interception in the dying seconds of the Super Bowl, has not been active.

With news this week that the cornerback's absence was not due to an injury the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe had this astonishing update:

Howe reports that, despite Butler having alerted team officials to his cancelled flight and the fact that the OTAs are voluntary, the second year cornerback was still punished by the Patriots.

Butler has still been at the New England facility but has been limited to the weight room and studying film. Having ended 2014 on such a high note this is far from how the young star would have hoped to begin 2015 preparation.

Big season ahead

With the Patriots having effectively gutted their secondary since defeating the Seattle Seahawks back in February - cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard and Chimdi Chekwa all no longer on the depth chart - Malcolm Butler is expected to challenge for a starting spot next season.

Rivals for the spot, Bradley Fletcher and Logan Ryan, may have just got a head start on the rising star though after Bill Belichick opted to lay down the law.

It is expected that Butler will return for the final section of OTAs and, come minicamp, will be back in the fold.

Patriots fans: Is this punishment too harsh or is Belichick right to rule with an iron fist? Have your say in the comments below...

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