Arizona Cardinals cornerback Malcolm Butler was a Super Bowl hero for the New England Patriots who made a game-winning goal-line interception. The play went down as one of the greatest and most memorable moments in NFL history. Since then, Butler’s career has been a series of ups and downs. Now, reports suggest he is poised to retire at 31 due to a “personal situation.” The circumstances around the cornerback’s possible retirement are so mysterious, even his own team doesn’t know exactly what’s going on.
Malcolm Butler was the hero of the Patriots Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks
Malcolm Butler started his NFL career as an undrafted rookie out of tiny Division II University of West Alabama. However, he impressed Patriot coaches enough in the team’s 2014 training camp to earn a spot on the team.
During his rookie season, Butler was a healthy scratch or earned a DNP five times. He played a total of 184 defensive snaps during the season but gained more playing time as the year went on. He only played 33 defensive snaps in the playoffs. His 33rd play, though, is one of the most important moments in NFL history.
Down four points with 25 seconds to go in Super Bowl 49, the Seahawks got the ball down inside the Patriots’ two-yard line. Russell Wilson dropped back to pass instead of handing the ball off to battering ram running back Marshawn Lynch. The QB threw the ball to Ricardo Lockette, but Butler stepped in front of the receiver and picked off the pass. The dramatic play won the game for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Pats.
Butler played six more NFL seasons for the Patriots and Tennessee Titans. After the Titans cut him during the 2021 offseason, he signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals, and that’s where the mystery begins.
Butler is now reportedly considering retirement for personal reasons
The Cardinals signed Butler to bolster the secondary following the departure of franchise legend Patrick Peterson. The corner reported to camp for the Cards and played in the team’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs but has now been mysteriously absent for some time.
The NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo broke the news about the mysterious situation:
Malcolm Butler, the Cardinals veteran cornerback, I have been told through the day from multiple sources that he is going through a personal situation right now and part of that situation led him to be away from the facility within the last week for a period of time, and that he is still trying to work his way through that. And that right now, retirement or stepping away from the game is on the table for Malcolm Butler.Mike Garafolo on Malcolm Butler
Neither the team nor Butler’s agent would comment to Garafalo. However, ESPN’s Josina Anderson later tweeted that the club told her, “we don’t have a clue why” Butler is considering stepping away and that no matter what he decides, they will “keep going.”
The cornerback’s career has been a roller coaster since his magical Super Bowl moment
Following his Super Bowl moment, Butler became one of the better cornerbacks in the league for a few seasons. He started 47 of 48 games for New England and picked off eight passes in the next three years. He even earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2015.
In his final season in Foxborough, Butler played 97.8% of the teams’ regular-season defensive snaps on the way to another Super Bowl appearance. However, Belichick shockingly benched Butler for Super Bowl 52, an eventual Patriots loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Rumors ran wild as to why the iconic coach benched his corner, but Belichick never gave a straight answer.
As a free agent following the Big Game benching, Butler signed a five-year, $61.25 million contract with Tennessee. Butler started 36 games in the next three seasons in Nashville. He also picked off nine balls and defended 35 passes. The team cut the player in 2021 in order to save $10.5 million against the cap.
While Butler never quite lived up to his early career promise, Garafolo also reported that “the Cardinals expected him to be a key part of their secondary” in 2021.