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Super Bowl Hero Malcolm Butler Benched for Three Weeks After Showing Up Late to Voluntary OTAs
In the eyes of New England Patriots despot Bill Belichick, there are no such things as “voluntary” workouts. According to the Boston Herald, he benched Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler for three weeks after he showed up late for the start of voluntary organized team activities on May 26.
The reason Butler was late for voluntary OTAs? He missed his flight to Boston the night before due to weather-related issues. The report doesn’t specify what the “weather-related” issues were, but since it didn’t say Butler’s flight was cancelled, I’m assuming it means he didn’t make it to the airport on time because of excessive traffic caused by bad weather. Or something like that.
Butler’s punishment does not excuse him from attending film sessions, meetings, and workouts. But he’s not been able to join his teammates on the field for practice.
According to ESPN, Butler is taking the punishment in stride and viewing it as a lesson learned. But it’s still a little harsh, especially considering the fact that New England desperately needs Butler to take the next step and fill the void in the Patriots secondary created by the departures of Darrelle Revis and Brandown Brownder.
Then there’s the issue of whether a team can even punish a player for being late to voluntary team activities. According to the NFL Network, the NFLPA will be looking into whether Belichick violated Article 21, Section 5(a) of the collective bargaining agreement. Specifically, the part that says:
No Club official may indicate to a player that the Club’s offseason workout program or classroom instruction is not voluntary (or that a player’s failure to participate in a workout program or classroom instruction will result in the player’s failure to make the Club or result in any other adverse consequences affecting his working conditions).
The Patriots would almost certainly argue that keeping a player out of “voluntary” practice sessions couldn’t be construed as an “adverse consequence” since they’re “voluntary.” But that’s a pretty big stretch. If you ask me, the NFLPA definitely has a case here.
Hat Tip – [The Score]