The New England Patriots held cornerback Malcolm Butler out of multiple practices because he missed a flight, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Butler was late for the first practice of organized team activities after he missed a flight due to weather issues and as punishment, he hasn't been on the field since then. According to the report, Butler did reach out to the team to let them know his flight was canceled at the time.
It was originally reported that Butler was benched for "nearly three weeks," though Howe gave an update on Thursday noting that Butler has been at practice this week. That puts the missed practice tally at six, which accounts for about two weeks of practice.
After practice Thursday, Butler spoke to reporters, though he didn't go into detail about his punishment.
"I really don't have a comment about that," he said, via of Phil Perry of CSNNE.com. "I'm just glad to get back here, participating, just getting better. Trying to get better. That's all."
Getting benched for two weeks sounds extreme, even for a head coach like Bill Belichick. He's not afraid to dish out the hard punishment, but Butler is a promising young cornerback -- you may remember him as the guy who snagged the game-winning interception in the Super Bowl last season -- and this sounds like a reasonable explanation if there ever was one.
Still, the Patriots aren't the only team that encourages its players to fly out ahead of time specifically to avoid instances like this. Butler's time off the field hasn't been a total wash though, as he's been watching film and attending team meetings. It's also possible that the Patriots expect Butler to be far enough along to win one of the starting cornerback spots and felt that he wouldn't take a massive step back due to the punishment.
No matter what, the secondary is going to look a lot different this coming season than it did in 2014. New England has parted ways with all three starting cornerbacks from the Super Bowl -- Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis signed deals elsewhere in free agency while Kyle Arrington was released. Butler didn't play much last season, but he showed his potential in the Super Bowl.
Butler, to his credit, hasn't been hanging his head. According to Howe, he has "treated it as a lesson learned and has brought the right attitude to Gillette on a daily basis." The benching might not go over well if a less established coach tried to pull it off, but keeping the locker room in check has never been a problem for Belichick.
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