The third-year cornerback skipped the first week of optional practices last month, prompting speculation his absence was tied to his wish for a new contract. The undrafted free agent and Super Bowl XLIX hero is scheduled to make just $600,000 this season and is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he earned a paltry $510,000.
Butler told reporters his absence during the first round of organized team activities was a “big misunderstanding” before clarifying he had dealt with a “family issue, or something like that,” per ESPN.com.
Later, Butler was asked if he’d been bothered by the speculation he might hold out for a new deal.
“Of course that’s going to bother you,” he told the Boston Herald. “Everyone knows why I wasn’t here.”
Added Butler: “It is what it is. I’m going to play hard, no matter what.”
Butler is a top cornerback being paid like a special teams contributor, and the bad news for him is that the Patriots are unlikely to be in a rush to rip up his contract. The Pats have several key players headed toward unrestricted free agency after the season, and Butler — scheduled to be a restricted free agent after 2016 — might not be at the top of their priority list.
At least, not right now.