The Patriots have released cornerback Darius Butler this afternoon and the third-year player says he is optimistic about his future opportunities.
The Patriots drafted Butler in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of Connecticut. He struggled last season losing his starting spot early in the season and spent much of the year trying to rebound.
When he got the news, he told the Globe’s Shalise Manza Young that he wasn’t surprised.
“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.”
Butler, who is 5-10 and 190 pounds, had 23 total tackles last season and played in 15 games. As a rookie, he had 35 total tackles in 14 games.
Via his Twitter account, Butler wrote: “Its been real New England. I was blessed to have a chance to play and start my NFL career here. But its time to open a new chapter. Thx #patsnation.”
The Patriots are now left with five cornerbacks: Leigh Bodden, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Antwaun Molden and rookie Ras-I Dowling.
Wouldn’t be surprised to Butler was claimed by another team fairly quickly.
UPDATE (10 p.m.) – The Panthers reportedly put in a claim on Butler just hours after he was released. Since Carolina is atop the priority list thanks to their NFL-worst 2-14 record last year, Butler will be headed there, to a team looking for secondary help.
Here are some more comments from his interview:
Happy about a fresh start?: “I’m ready. I won’t say I’m happy, but I’m definitely ready to go on to a new chapter.”
His assessment of his progress: “I think my rookie year ran a lot more smoothly than my second year. 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.”
On if his confidence was rattled after being benched: “I wouldn’t say my confidence. Obviously you don’t want to be benched, you want to play. But I never felt I wasn’t good enough to play; it happened. I don’t think they felt like I wasn’t good enough to play; just other things weren’t working.”
Final thoughts?: “I’ll never forget (the Pats) for giving me the opportunity. I was happy to be part of the organization for two years and I wish them the best going forward.”