Much has changed for Malcolm Butler since his pro day last March. (NFL Game Rewind)
Only 12 months ago, soon-to-be Super Bowl XLIX savior Malcolm Butler was preparing for his pro day. But the numbers the Division II cornerback would ultimately post at it failed to paint the full picture.
Butler was clocked running a 4.62-second 40-yard dash. Yet neither that time, nor the others he clocked that day, kept the New England Patriots from looking further into the unknown prospect with unremarkable athletic metrics.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick explained the process to Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski on Sirius XM College Sports Nation’s Basketball and Beyond with Coach K.
“When we scouted him at West Alabama, the information on him wasn’t accurate, and somehow or other his times and athleticism kind of got lost in the shuffle as sort of a slower corner that was just an OK athlete,” Belichick said.
James White appeared in three games as a rookie in 2013. (NFL Game Rewind)
In a sense, James White’s rookie season was much like Shane Vereen’s.
The New England Patriots fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin played in three games. He handled nine carries for 38 yards and five receptions for 23 yards. He served as a redshirt, rounding out the running back position behind the likes of Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, Brandon Bolden and Vereen.
Opportunities to serve as more were seldom seen.
White’s final snaps of the campaign came with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback versus the Buffalo Bills in the regular-season finale. And when New England’s two-minute drill fell short, so did his 2014 campaign.
It was over then, even though New England’s was far from it. Yet it was a similar case for a certain Patriots second-round pick out of California back in 2011.
Rob Ninkovich ended his sixth year in New England with a Super Bowl. (NFL Game Rewind)
A former New Orleans Saints fifth-rounder and Miami Dolphins practice-squadder, Rob Ninkovich didn’t know what would come of signing with the New England Patriots in August of 2009.
Ninkovich had seen his rookie year in New Orleans end on injured reserve. He had seen himself waived and claimed by Miami to play in four games during his second year. And he had seen himself claimed off Miami’s practice squad by the team that drafted him during his third year.
The product of Joliet Junior College and Purdue University had been tested at defensive end, outside linebacker and long snapper over that span. Only he struggled to stay in one place long enough to see the results. By July of 2009, Ninkovich had been waived again after the Saints signed long snapper Jason Kyle.
But a new place would arrive for Ninkovich only three days later.
Julian Edelman’s score reclaimed victory for New England. (NFL Game Rewind)
A three-yard touchdown from quarterback Russell Wilson to wideout Doug Baldwin gave the Seattle Seahawks a 24-14 lead with 4:54 remaining in the third.
The margin stood on its own. Only the Washington Redskins against the Denver Broncos and the New Orleans Saints against the Indianapolis Colts had overcome a 10-point first-half deficit to win, with those two glimpses coming in Super Bowl XXII in Super Bowl XLIV, respectively.
But the New England Patriots would soon join them in the second half, even if it brought them to within one yard of a loss in Super Bowl XLIX.
Jonas Gray will not be in uniform for Super Bowl XLIX.
The first-year New England Patriots running back is among the team’s official inactives for the second time in three weeks, after leading the team in rushing during the regular season and posting a 200-yard, four-touchdown performance in November.
Also inactive for the Patriots is fourth-round running back James White, wideouts Brian Tyms and Josh Boyce, guard Jordan Devey, defensive tackle Joe Vellano and sixth-round defensive end Zach Moore.
Tom Brady will face off in his sixth Super Bowl Sunday night. (NFL Game Rewind)
Two weeks have passed since the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks last played a football game.
Much has been said, and much has been prepared for in the days since then. But the wait will come to an end in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday night. And leading up to it, here are some parting notes on what will be the last game of the NFL season.
Luke Willson’s emergence has resonated for Seattle. (NFL Game Rewind)
If there was a game to leave a mark, it would be this one.
The New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will look to do just that Sunday night in Super Bowl XLIX. And in this matchup, with these personnel groups, with these brands of offense and defense, certain players could leave a mark far deeper than expected.
Vince Wilfork will play in his fourth Super Bowl on Sunday. (NFL Game Rewind)
Vince Wilfork didn’t know if he’d get back to this point. He didn’t know much he’d miss it.
The 6-foot-2, 344-pound defensive tackle was a freshman on a 12-0 Miami Hurricanes Rose Bowl team in 2001. He was a sophomore on a 12-1 Fiesta Bowl team in 2002. He was a junior on an 11-2 Orange Bowl team in 2003.
Wilfork was used to winning. The ‘U’ went 35-3 over his tenure there. And even when he left as a New England Patriots first-round pick in April of 2004, it didn’t leave him.
The Patriots went 17-2 on the way to being crowned AFC champion and Super Bowl XXXIX champion during Wilfork’s rookie season. He played in every game along the way to that run, starting seven behind a 14-year veteran in Keith Traylor, who had been in the league since Wilfork was 10.
But Wilfork didn’t fully grasp the moment then, as the Patriots defeated the Philadelphia Eagles by a score of 24-21 to raise the Lombardi Trophy. He was 23 years old. His teams had gone 52-5 in four years. He had two rings in the two highest tiers of the sport. And after the Patriots had secured three in four years, he thought his third would arrive just as fast as the last one.
Doug Baldwin found space during the NFC title game in Seattle. (NFL Game Rewind)
The Seattle Seahawks’ wideouts work in the background. They line up against press coverage and slip underneath it.
But that’s just during the week. The often unsaid and unread names of the Seahawks make themselves known on Sundays.
Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin – despite ranking 85th and 42nd in NFL receiving yards during the regular season, respectively – headline them. And while they are seldom headliners on a team revered for its powerful running game and ‘Legion of Boom,’ they are underlying reasons why Seattle’s set to play in February for the second year in a row.
Time will tell just whom Seahawks corner Richard Sherman faces. (NFL Game Rewind)
The Seattle Seahawks got there on Saturday. The New England Patriots got there on Monday. And by next Sunday, they’ll play a football game.
But before the two sides kick off Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, there are some questions and best guesses to review in this midweek mailbag.