Malcolm Butler

Malcolm Butler

If the Patriots hadn’t signed Malcolm Butler as an undrafted free agent two years ago, there’s no telling what he’d be doing. But it probably wouldn’t involve the NFL.

Speaking to Butch and Tomase on Saturday before attending an event at Premier Fence in Canton, Butler discussed his fortuitous arrival in New England, explained why he’s been so driven not to be defined as a one-hit wonder, and chafed when asked to address his rookie contract, which runs through the coming season.

“I’m not going to discuss that right now,” Butler said of his contract. “Whenever the time comes, it comes. I’m a football player. I’m not a GM.”

Butler has one year remaining on his deal before becoming a restricted free agent in 2017. He made his first Pro Bowl last season.

Butler was happy to rewind to May of 2014, when the Patriots came calling after he had gone undrafted out of West Alabama. He officially signed on May 19 of that year.

“I didn’t watch the draft until the last couple of rounds on the last day,” he said. “Just being honest with myself, I knew I [probably] wasn’t going to get drafted, so if I was going to get drafted, it would be in the late rounds and I’d get a phone call later. I was just at home, just got done working out, watching the draft. I’m thinking it’s going to be a good little while before someone calls me, and I see a 508 number. I get the call, and I came up to try out and I think Nick Caserio called me into his office. He’d liked what I’d done, and we went on from there.”

Surprisingly, not a single other team contacted Butler after he went undrafted. If the Patriots hadn’t signed him, he’s not sure where he’d be.

“Only team,” he said. “Only team. I hate to even think about it. I hate to think about it. I’m just glad it happened. I’m just glad the New England Patriots called me and everything happened the right way, which it has.”

As for his breakout season last year, Butler was determined not to be defined by his game-sealing interception against the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

“AIE — that’s my motto. Attitude is everything,” Butler said. “I just put my mind to it that I wasn’t going to fall off from that play. That was an awesome play. I’ll never be able to do that again. I don’t think so, no I don’t think so. But when you’re doing that and that’s what you’re known for doing, that play, it’s kind of hard to replace that moment and live up to that moment. I’m not going to be able to go out there and do it over and over. I just kept the drive and just wanted to be a great player. I didn’t want to be defined by that one play, which I haven’t. I still have a lot more that I want to prove.

“I’ll never be able to do that again. Man, I just want to go out there and be a great football player. I got tired of the noise, talking about we’ll never hear from him again, lucky play and all that. I just used that as motivation to be a better player, and I always knew I’d be a good player in this league. I’ve still got a lot of work to do, and I’m looking forward to this season.”

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Tom Brady will turn 39 in August. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady will turn 39 in August. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

1. With Tom Brady set to turn 39 in three months, we thought it would be appropriate to take a look at what might be a reasonable level of expectation for the quarterback for 2016. By way of comparison, here are five notable performances by 39-year-old signal-callers. (For a complete list of performances from 39-year-old QBs, check out Pro Football Reference here.)

a) Warren Moon: As a 39-year-old with Minnesota in 1995, Moon started all 16 games, completed 62 percent of his passes, threw for 4,228 yards, 33 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a passing rating of 91.5. This stat line represents the numerical pinnacle for 39-year-old quarterbacks across the board (and a pretty good — albeit relative — model for Brady to aim for, given his recent totals), but that Vikings team finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.

b) Brett Favre: In his return to football with the Jets in 2008, Favre also started all 16 games, completed 66 percent of his passes, threw for 3,472 yards, 22 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, and ended the year with an 81.3 passer rating. That New York team ended the year 9-7 and out of the postseason.

c) Doug Flutie: The Boston College product was the last of the three on our list to start in all 16 games for a San Diego team that started 3-0 but ended 5-11. He completed 56 percent of his passes, threw for 3,464 yards, 15 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and finished with a quarterback rating of 72.

d) Jim Plunkett: The former Patriot was at the tail end of his career with the Raiders in 1986 when he started eight games and threw for 1,986 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a 39-year-old. He finished that year with a 53 percent completion rate and a passer rating of 82.5. It was the last season of his career, and he went 3-5 for a Raiders’ team that finished 8-8.

e) Peyton Manning: Let’s make one thing clear: we’re only including Manning here because he was Brady’s counterpoint for much of the last decade-plus. Of course, Manning’s numbers last year were pretty bad, as he ended with a 60 percent completion rate, 2,249 passing yards, nine touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a passer rating of 67.9 — arguably the worst regular-season stat line of any Super Bowl-winning QB of all time. But he was the guy left standing at the end with his second ring and a kiss from Papa John that sent him into the sunset.

2. Of course, from a historical perspective, no quarterback is having the run-up to the age of 39 that Brady has enjoyed. His passer rating, completion percentage and touchdowns have all increased the last three seasons, while his interception totals have dropped over the same stretch as he’s led the Patriots to three AFC title games and one Super Bowl win. If there’s anyone capable of bucking the trend, it’s Brady: as long as Alex Guerrero has plenty of avocado ice cream at his disposal and his offensive options remain healthy, the sky is the limit for the quarterback. (Who’s to say what sort of impact Deflategate might have on his production this season.) It’s only to give some sort of statistical context to the challenge facing the quarterback as he continues to prepare for 2016.

3. We hit on one of the Patriots-related aspects to Jason Licht’s interview defending Tampa’s choice to take a kicker in the second round of the draft earlier this week, but as noted here by Rich Hill, there were two other elements of that Q&A worth passing along that might interest New England fans.

One, it’s OK to be bold: “Belichick [wants to take his guy and not be worried about what others think]. I always tell our scouts, ‘If you guys have a first-round grade on a guy the 49ers took and he turns out to be a bust, I’m not worried. I’m not going to judge you on that,’” said the Tampa GM who cut his teeth with the Patriots. “There are so many factors that go into whether that player will be successful or not. It could be the city. It could be the staff. It could be the team. It could be all that stuff. I’m only worried about our picks and how you evaluated the players that we took.”

And two, don’t be afraid to have a short list. Don’t muck up your draft board with a lot of unnecessary names. “I think from Bill, I learned about having a clean draft board without 300 names up there on draft day,” Licht said. “Chipping it down to whom the guys were that we actually wanted, that could actually make our team and help us,” he said. “I remember one year we cleaned the draft board down to just 75 players going into a seven-round draft. Us scouts said, ‘Are we going to have enough players to draft? What’s going to be there in the seventh round?’ We got down to the seventh round and there were two players left out of 75 and it was [wide receiver] David Givens and we took him. He went on to have a pretty good career.”

4. We noted Rob Ninkovich’s pair of impressive streaks here, but it’s also worth noting that two other Pats are among the active leaders at their respective positions when it comes to games played and/or started. Brady is third among all quarterbacks when it comes to consecutive regular-season games played with 112 — he trails Eli Manning at 183 and Philip Rivers at 161. Brady is also third on the list for consecutive regular-season games started at 112 behind Manning’s 183 and Rivers’ 160. (For what it’s worth, it’s believed that a Deflategate ban would knock him off both active lists.) In addition, Stephen Gostkowski is now tied for fifth among all kickers with a streak of 80 straight regular-season games played.

5. One of the things that stood out about our chat with Ian Rapoport of NFL Media this week in the “It Is What It Is” podcast was that Rapoport told us that former Patriots offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo was basically coaching for his job down the stretch. Instead of DeGuglielmo basically being the fall guy for what happened in the AFC title game, Rapoport told me that “the wheels were sort of in motion before that. I knew he thought he was kind of fighting for his job a few weeks before that.” DeGuglielmo was “feeling the heat and he knew there was a chance he would not be retained” down the stretch, and the biggest takeaway was the fact that it wasn’t a “good mesh of styles.”

As for the return of Dante Scarnecchia, Rapoport said there was a mostly positive reaction around the league to the Patriots decision to re-hire Scarnecchia. “His return is probably treated as it should be because everyone saw what happened when [Scarnecchia] wasn’t there,” Rapoport said. For my complete interview, check out the podcast here.

6. Rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell has only been a member of the Patriots’ franchise for a few weeks, but he’s already impressed many people around Foxboro. Sources at Gillette Stadium have shown him to be free of any sort of pretense, willing to jump right in and get to work alongside his veteran teammates. One thing that distinguished him from other first-year players around the league is the fact that he decided to pass on an invite to this week’s NFLPA Rookie Premiereand the $12,000 minimum payday that goes with it — to stay home and study his playbook. It’s still wildly early in his career, but Mitchell certainly appears to be hitting all the right notes.

7. Eric Decker should be applauded for showing some feistiness — it would be strange for a competitor to back down from a fight for the division title. And his quote surely played well with the fans in North Jersey. From this perspective, it was the language that seemed a little off. Decker seemed to suggest that “if” Brady was out, it could open the door for the rest of the division. What does that mean if Brady is able to play? Does that shut the door again?

8. Darrelle Revis’ decision to part ways with longtime agents Neil Schwartz and Jonathan Feinsod this past week is really strange. The cornerback, who has not announced who will be repping him going forward, has broken new contractual ground time and again with Schwartz and Feinsod by his side. In nine seasons, he’s worked the system to perfection, maximizing his revenue streams, holding out and gambling on himself, all while managing to make $101 million (per Spotrac.com), a ridiculous amount for a non-quarterback in this day and age. It’s not know what happened behind the scenes to cause the split, but it’s certainly reasonable to speculate that the 30-year-old is looking to make at least one more big splash financially before he calls it a career. It’s debatable if he’ll be able to land one more deal — he just finished the first year of a five-year contract he signed in the offseason. But as the case has always been with the wily corner, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he found a way out of his latest deal and cashed in one more time with a new contract before he walked off.

9. The NFL is heading to Las Vegas, one way or another. More and more owners have started lining up behind the once-ridiculous idea that a city so intimately connected to the world of gambling could play host to an NFL team. (Turns out, as long as they have the kind of public money needed to do the deal, it’s all good.) Patriots owner Robert Kraft is the latest to add his voice to the chorus. He told USA Today this week that a move to Vegas would be “good for the NFL” if the Raiders can’t get a deal done for a new stadium in Oakland, hinting that the old fears of putting a team in a city like Vegas isn’t the issue that it used to be, primarily because many people gamble online these days. “I came into the league in ’94,” said Kraft. “Back then, any exploration of that market was dismissed out of hand. I’m looking where we are today and thinking of the last 10 to 15 years, and the emergence of new media, with Google and Facebook and the like. We’re just living in a different world, technology wise. The risks in Vegas are no longer exclusive to Vegas.” Expect more Vegas talk this week, as owners are set to meet in Charlotte.

10. We spent plenty of time this week talking about the greatness of Kevin Faulk and what made him a worth member of the Patriots Hall of Fame, but former teammate Ninkovich weighed in with his two cents when we talked to him at Gillette Stadium on Thursday. He didn’t mince words when it came to his thoughts on Faulk, who he played with from 2009 through 2011. “Unbelievable player,” Ninkovich said of Faulk. “I was blessed [to spend] a couple of years with Kevin and [he’s] just a true professional.” One more Faulk note: you should read this piece that popped up on NOLA.com this week where he was part of a roundtable of great LSU running backs for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it details the relationship between Faulk and Belichick over the first couple of years they were together in New England.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

So what’s the deal with Arian Foster?

Arian Foster has spent a lot of time in New England the last 24 hours or so.  (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Arian Foster has spent a lot of time in New England the last 24 hours or so. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

So what’s the deal with Arian Foster?

The veteran was spotted at Logan Airport and at Fenway over the last couple of days. The Patriots ostensibly have a need for depth at running back after passing at the position in the draft. The veteran is still on the market. According to our pal Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Foster’s visit to New England doesn’t include a meeting with the Patriots. But per Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, New England has expressed a “preliminary” interest in Foster.

So what does that all add up to?

At this point, it’s nothing more than pure speculation. But if the Patriots are interested in kicking the tires on the veteran, he’s certainly an intriguing prospect. The 29-year-old, who is coming off an Achilles injury that ended his 2015 campaign, is a 6-foot, 232-pound veteran who has 6,472 career rushing yards — including four seasons where he topped 1,000 yards on the ground — in his seven years in the NFL, all of them with Houston.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Roberto Aguayo was drafted in the second round by Tampa Bay.  (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Roberto Aguayo was drafted in the second round by Tampa Bay. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Tampa GM Jason Licht said he made his notable decision to draft kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round this year in part because of his background with the Patriots and Bill Belichick.

In an interview with PewterReport.com, Licht, who made his bones in the New England front office before taking the reins with the Bucs, said that Belichick once asked all his scouts to break down the entire roster in order of value

“None of us had the kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, in our top 10 — even though he was an excellent kicker,” Licht said. “After we were done, Bill said, ‘Nobody wants to put Gostkowski in our top 10? Why, just because he’s a kicker?’ Bill made us ‘rethink that’ and he got his point across. He said, ‘You tell me 10 other players that are more important than him?'”

Gostkowski was taken in the fourth round of the 2006 draft out of Memphis, and has gone on to become one of the better kickers in the league over the last decade.

Licht said his resolve to draft a kicker early was strengthened when he saw Tampa kicker Kyle Brindza miss five field goals and two extra points in consecutive losses to Houston and Carolina last year.

“It was an eye-opening moment for me. I had been around Adam Vinatieri and Gostkowski, and those are two of the best,” Licht added. “I know how good of a feeling that is to have a guy like that when you know that a lot of the games are going to come down to field goals — a lot of the games come down to the kicker.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Rob Ninkovich meets the media Thursday at Gillette. (WEEI.com photo)

Rob Ninkovich meets the media Thursday at Gillette. (WEEI.com photo)

FOXBORO — Rob Ninkovich isn’t an overly superstitious guy, but when he was asked Thursday about his consecutive games played streak, he shot a mock-serious look at a reporter.

“Let’s not talk about that,” said the 32-year-old defensive end, who is set to start his 11th year in the league — and eighth with the Patriots — this fall.

Sorry, Rob. It’s gotten to a point where it can’t be ignored anymore: The 6-foot-3, 251-pounder, who has been with the Patriots since 2009, has now racked up 81 straight regular-season starts with New England, second-best in the league among all defensive ends. And he’s played in a total of 102 straight regular-season games with the Patriots, third-best in the league at his position. (Julius Peppers is tops in both categories with 128 straight games played and 102 consecutive starts.)

He acknowledges he’s probably a little fresher than most defensive ends because he didn’t play much at all in his first three years in the league — he played in a total of eight games with the Dolphins and Saints before signing with the Patriots in 2009. That’s why he said he subtracts three years from his career.

But the streak remains a point of pride.

“I like knowing that I can continue to contribute and help the team,” said Ninkovich, who has 42 career sacks, including 14.5 the last two years. “I do understand the business aspect of the game, so that’s exactly what I have to do: I have to help the team, contribute to win, and if I can continue to do that I’ll stay on the field.

“Other than that, I think that there’s a little bit of luck involved with that, because the first three years I couldn’t stay on the field,” he said of the streak. “Let’s just continue to work hard. I feel really good right now and just look forward to year 11.”

Ninkovich has been around long enough to know he’s not surprised when there’s roster movement. That includes the franchise decision to ship fellow pass-rushing defensive end Chandler Jones off to Arizona for offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper and a draft pick. Ninkovich and Jones had been teammates for four seasons, and on Thursday, Ninkovich called Jones “a really good football player.” But he seems enthused about the arrival of veteran free agent Chris Long.

“Chris is a great guy. He’s excited to be here and to just jump into the Patriot way. I know previous location was tough for him, so I just said to him, ‘Hey man, you come here and get to work and we’ll start winning football games.’

“Since then we’ve kind of hit it off. He’s a great guy,” added Ninkovich. “He’s definitely been great so far. It’s fun when you can learn from other guys, other pros. He’s been doing it a long time as well and he’s happy to be here so we’re happy to have him.”

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots continue to look to add depth to their secondary.

According to ESPN’s Adam Caplan, the team worked out Vinnie Sunsieri last week, a fifth-round pick by the Saints in 2014 out of Alabama.

The Patriots, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, also recently worked out former Falcons safety William Moore.

Oct 15, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson (82) is tackled by Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore (25) during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Saints tight end Benjamin Watson (82) is tackled by Falcons strong safety William Moore (25) during a game in 2015. (Derick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports)

The Patriots continue to look to add depth to their secondary.

According to ESPN’s Adam Caplan, the team worked out Vinnie Sunsieri last week, a fifth-round pick by the Saints in 2014 out of Alabama.

The Patriots, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, also recently worked out former Falcons safety William Moore.

Sunseri has a history of knee issues. In his final year at Alabama, he tore his ACL. He missed all of last season with another torn ACL. In his rookie year with the Saints, he had five tackles in nine games before being placed on injured reserve with an arm injury.

The 6-foot, 210-pound safety recorded 20 tackles with two interceptions and four passes defended in six games at Alabama in 2013. Adding to his potential value with the Patriots is the fact that he was a special teams star at Alabama.

Moore, 31, has 16 career interceptions, including two last season with the Falcons before being released. He signed a 5-year, $32 million deal to stay with the Falcons in March 2013.

The Patriots are currently at the 90-man limit on their roster, with OTAs set to begin next week. Nate Ebner is on leave from the team to try out for the U.S. Olympic rugby team. The Patriots also have Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Brock Vereen and Cedric Thornton on their safety depth chart.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

In the new It Is What It Is podcast, Chris Price talks with capologist Miguel Benzan of Patscap.com about some of the biggest misconceptions about the NFL salary cap, why some media members don’t want to talk to him, the Patriots cap situation for 2016 and beyond, and the looming payday for the likes of Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Malcolm Butler.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

Tom Brady’s team added another lawyer to the mix on Thursday, as multiple reports indicate that Thomas H. Dupree has been included as part of the quarterbacks’ defense team.

Dupree is a partner at the law firm of Gibson Dunn, the same firm that employs Ted Olson, who has also been retained by Brady and the NFLPA. Jeffrey Kessler is also already working the case.