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Butler is cut by Patriots

Carolina claims struggling corner

By Monique Walker and Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / September 7, 2011

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Cornerback Darius Butler could sense his time with the Patriots was nearing an end.

On the verge of his third season with the team, the rumors became reality as the Patriots cut Butler yesterday.

“I felt it,’’ Butler said. “It wasn’t a surprise. I was hearing trade speculation. It happened maybe a little bit later than I wanted, but I’m ready to go forward.’’

The Patriots selected Butler in the second round of the 2009 draft out of Connecticut, and he was filled with potential.

In his rookie year, Butler managed to rack up 35 tackles in 14 games, and he entered the 2010 season as a starter.

With veteran Leigh Bodden out for the 2010 season with an injury, the Patriots were limited at cornerback.

Rookie Devin McCourty had a breakout season and became a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

But on the other side of the field, Butler struggled. In the second week of the season, he couldn’t keep up against the Jets. It got so bad that a Jets receiver caught a touchdown pass over Butler and then did a dance in the corner’s face.

The Patriots benched Butler, and Kyle Arrington picked up more playing time. At times Butler looked confused, and he struggled to be in the right spots. It was a challenging time for Butler, who said his confidence wasn’t rattled but he knew he had to improve.

“Obviously you don’t want to be benched, you want to play, but I never felt I wasn’t good enough to play,’’ he said. “It happened. I don’t think they felt like I wasn’t good enough to play; just other things weren’t working.’’

Butler had 23 total tackles last season and played in 15 games. But even after some of the more challenging games, he would stand at his locker and answer questions about his performance, always vowing to improve.

He carried that positive approach throughout his tenure with the Patriots. From the moment he joined the team, Butler said, he was optimistic about his career in New England.

“I think my rookie year ran a lot more smoothly than my second year,’’ Butler said. “I’m not sure when it went off the track, but that’s in the past and I want to take a big step in the right direction.’’

That new opportunity likely will come with the Carolina Panthers, who put in a claim for Butler hours after he was cut, according to the Charlotte Observer. Because of the Panthers’ record last year, they had the first chance to claim Butler and took it.

The Patriots are now left with five cornerbacks in Bodden, McCourty, Arrington, Antwaun Molden, and rookie Ras-I Dowling. Bodden returned to practice this week after missing the final two games of the preseason with an undisclosed injury.

Arrington was injured in the final preseason game against the Giants, but isn’t expected to be out a significant amount of time.

The Patriots claimed Molden on waivers from the Houston Texans a day before the final preseason game. The 6-foot-1-inch, 200-pound cornerback played against the Giants and managed to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster.

As for Butler, he wasn’t happy about the move but he’s ready for the next chapter in his life.

“I’ll never forget [the Patriots] for giving me the opportunity,’’ Butler said. “I was happy to be part of the organization for two years and I wish them the best.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @monwalker. Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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