Malcolm Bulter’s return to the Patriots was short-lived as the veteran cornerback was placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier this month. While suiting up for New England is no longer in the cards, Butler now has a chance to play this season. On Thursday, the Patriots released Butler off of injured reserve, according to the NFL transaction wire. This means that he is now a free agent and able to sign with a new club immediately.
While the team left Butler’s injury undisclosed, The Athletic reports that he suffered a hip injury in the preseason opener against the Giants. Butler didn’t practice after that game where he finished with one tackle and a fumble recovery.
Butler signed a two-year deal to return to the Patriots back in late March. The now 32-year-old started his career in New England as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and became a legendary figure for the franchise after picking off Russell Wilson at the goal-line to help the Patriots win Super Bowl XLIX. On top of that play, Butler had developed into an All-Pro corner while in Foxborough and helped the organization to another title in 2016.
However, the end of Butler’s first tenure in New England is arguably just as infamous as the beginning was famous. In Super Bowl LII, he was mysteriously benched on defense and played just one special teams snap, which is a move by Bill Belichick that is still questioned. To this day, neither side has come out and stated the reasoning for the benching, which has only led to wild speculation from those outside of Gillette Stadium. That said, whatever led to that circumstance clearly didn’t prevent a return.
Not only was this set to be a comeback for Butler to New England, but also the NFL. After signing with the Arizona Cardinals in the spring of 2021, Butler decided to retire due to personal reasons last August.
For his career, Butler has started in 84 of his 100 regular-season games. Over that stretch, he’s tallied 82 pass breakups, 17 interceptions, and 406 tackles. The last time Butler played in the regular season came back in 2020 when he suited up in all 16 games and had four interceptions with 14 pass breakups and held opposing quarterbacks to an 83.2 passer rating when targeting him.