A more experienced Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler has things covered with Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones
HOUSTON — There’s no comparing Malcolm Butler’s first Super Bowl to his second. Not because of what the Patriots’ shutdown corner did last time, but because of everything since.
Two years ago, during his first Super Bowl media day, Butler remembered being by himself. This year, he was standing and surrounded.
NFL Network came by, then ESPN. The big-dog networks and the goofball interviews both were non-stop.
“Things can change pretty fast,” he said.
Butler, who won Super Bowl XLIX with an interception of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, has talked for two years now about such speed: his own in the moment, and how that moment catapulted him into lore.
The catch will be there forever, he says.
“I’m going to expect to be asked about it, I’m going to expect to be known for it,” Butler said. “That’s going to be there for the rest of my life.”
On media day, a reporter who didn’t speak English well asked Butler if he remembered the play.
Butler did not laugh, to his credit. Yes, he does remember, and said it’s “very impossible to pull that off again.”
Of course it is. But a third-year player who now understands how to watch video, an improved tackler who’s become ingrained in a system — Bill Belichick’s system — has a better chance to change a game than the kid who did it against the Seahawks.
“It’s been great to watch him develop and mature and really grow his knowledge of the game and become a football player that’s playing more than just within his own position,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “He understands the concept of what we’re doing from a scheme standpoint, understanding how we can change things, or how we can switch up game plans from week to week. I think that’s the growth that we’re really looking for. And that’s been the best part about it.”
Butler’s Super Bowl interception was all-the-more incredible because he was an undrafted free agent. His story remains alluring for that reason.
But he exists, too, in a different context now. Falcons receiver Julio Jones has reason to fear Butler — as much of a reason as Jones has to fear any defensive back, at least.
This isn’t about flash-in-the-pan greatness.
“I was watching film as a rookie,” Butler said. “So I was doing rookie things while watching film. Just looking at it, and not understanding it. And probably just looking at it with my teammates looking at it (at the same time), instead of looking at it on my own.
“It’s all on you. If you want to get better, you’re going to look at that film — and not just look at it. You’re going to look at it and focus and lock in on details, and all of the things like that.”
This Super Bowl, Butler said he watched film earlier than he did before the last. Going up against Jones — ideally, with help from other backs — Butler will need every minute of video.
“What he’s great at is jumping routes and the ability to get in and out,” Jones said. “He hasn’t played (against) me .?.?. so I know where I’m going and he doesn’t know where I’m going, so the advantage is to me. He’s a very competitive corner and he’s got great ball skills.”
Getting the first out of the way always helps. The XLIX experience for Butler isn’t to be written off.
The week leading up to the game is wild, the adrenaline going into it tremendous. He’s learned those things. How to deal with an intense late moment, too.
“Most definitely be calmer this time,” Butler said. “I got an idea about how things go. You know, I was a rookie last Super Bowl we appeared in.”
Everyone remembers. And everyone should remember he’s not a rookie anymore.