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FOXBOROUGH -- For those who appreciate the nuances and finer details of football, here is some added context to the strong performance of Patriots rookie cornerback Darius Butler:
Butler was around the ball in key moments in Sunday's 27-21 win over the Ravens, including the final drive of the game, but his on-field presence in crunch time wasn't by design.
It only happened because cornerback Jonathan Wilhite had an issue with his equipment.
"I didn't expect to go in, but as a sub, you're always keeping yourself ready," Butler explained. "That's what happened. I came in and they came at me a couple of times."
Butler, a second-round draft choice out of Connecticut, was up to the task in one of the tougher assignments in sports: Being thrust into the thick of the action with little notice.
"It's real challenging, but coaches talk about it all the time 'Next man up', the next guy always has to be ready to come in," he said.
The Patriots played eight different defensive backs Sunday, and the plan with Butler was to have him play a series or two each half, resting starter Shawn Springs. Butler ended up playing 15 snaps and recorded one pass breakup.
The rotation reflects the depth and confidence that the coaching staff has in the overall secondary, which might be the deepest it has been in Bill Belichick's tenure as coach (2000-present).
Butler is happy to be a part of it, and felt good about rising up when unexpectedly called upon on that final drive.
"Making a couple plays, that was good for not only my confidence, but probably the confidence of my teammates," he said.