FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Even though it’s been four years since Malcolm Butler last played for New England and over a year since he played in the NFL, the Patriots’ former – and perhaps future – starting cornerback has played more snaps in Coach Bill Belichick’s system than many of the team’s defensive backs making him an old hand and a newcomer, a learner and a leader all at the same time.

“I lead by example. I don’t talk as much. I lead by making plays,” said the 32-year-old, who switched to No. 4 after wearing No. 21 in his previous stint with the Pats.

Four seasons after he left the Patriots following his surprising Super Bowl benching, he’s back. He sat out last year after signing with the Cardinals, then retiring.

“It feels natural. It feels like home. It is home,” said Butler, who played his last three seasons in Tennessee from 2018-2020. He said he feels comfortable physically since his return. “I feel good. I’m not sore at all. I’m just catching up to speed. I’m out here competing. Getting in shape. Learning the defense. Just out here having fun.”

With J.C. Jackson gone and Jonathan Jones coming off a season-ending injury. Butler could be an important part of the defensive backfield both for his play and that leadership. He said he’s been talking to the team’s rookie DBs.

“I had a few words with them. I told them you’re going to have good days. You’re going to have bad days. Just keep working,” Butler said. “I tell them they got potential. I try to help the young guys out. They can come to me. I’m an open book. They look good. They’re still rookies. They still have a lot to learn.”


He said he’s got stuff to learn too. The defense is similar, but not quite the same as when he left.

“It has some different things to it,” Butler said. “But whatever they put on paper I have to learn and come out and execute on the field. I like it.”

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN Davon Godchaux signed a two-year contract extension with the New England Patriots worth $20.8 million on Wednesday night. On Thursday, he showed up with a smile on his face.

“Just shows appreciation for all the hard work,” Godchaux said. “I want to make sure that I live up to the expectations.”

He said that his effort in practice will not determined by the amount on his contract.

“Never let the money change me,” Godchaux said. “I’m going to play the same way. It’s not going to change me. Getting better every day. Coming with the same attitude. … I’m happy but not satisfied.”


Along with the contract, the 6-foot-3, 311-pound tackle also received high praise from Patriots Coach Bill Belichick.

“He’s one of the best defensive linemen in the league,” Belichick said. “I’m glad we were able to work that out. Both sides are happy. Contract signed. We’ll go forward.”

And when Godchaux was asked if he thought he was one of the best lineman in the league, his answer was simple: “If I’m being honest, yes I do.” He pointed to his ability to stop the run and the pass rush and attributes that to what puts him at that level.

Godchaux signed with the Patriots as a free agent in March 2021 after spending the first four seasons of his career in Miami. Last season, he played in all 17 games.

Being in New England “fits everything I do,” Godchaux said. “Bill, he’s honest, he’s positive criticism, he’s going to hold you accountable. I needed a coach like that, and when I got here, it was everything I thought it was.”

RHAMONDRE STEVENSON is visibly slimmer as he enters his second training camp. When asked how this July feels different than his rookie year, the running back’s answer was matter-of-fact.


“I’m in shape,” Stevenson replied. “I can run a lot more. I just feel better overall.”

A year ago, Stevenson admits he “didn’t really come in in the best shape.” So he spent this offseason working with a trainer in Dallas and consulting a nutritionist. Stevenson dropped 7 pounds, reported to camp at 225, and feels like he’s carrying much healthier weight overall.

“I think I got a lot more lean… after today and all this sweat I’m probably 215,” Stevenson joked after a humid camp session.

Stevenson caught a few passes out of the backfield on Thursday morning and he’s focused on becoming a complete back in 2022.

“I did a lot of that: Running routes and just getting better with my hands. Pass protection. All of the above,” Stevenson said.

IN HIS first NFL training camp, Cole Strange has found one thing easier playing for the Patriots than at Tennessee-Chattanooga, an FCS school — the temperature.


“The weather is a lot nicer. There were two or three weeks in June when it was like 60 degrees,” said Strange, a Tennessee native. “I talked to my dad and it was like 105 (in Tennessee) and I was like, ‘Thank God I’m up here.’”

It’s been plenty hot in New England this week with temperatures reaching over 90 degrees, as Strange prepares for his rookie season after the Patriots took him first overall. He was one of the rare offensive linemen not wearing gloves.

“Maybe I’m just weird, but when I put gloves on, it’s just another layer of heat,” said Strange, who shed his minicamp beard for a mustache. “Maybe it’ll be different up here when it gets cold and I’ll want to put gloves and long sleeves on. Down south it gets hot in winter, so anything I can not wear, I do.”

Strange’s playful weather talk was indicative of a rookie, who seems comfortable so far.

“It’s going well. Tough, but as expected. Learning a lot right now. Making sure I know my assignments. Everybody is bigger, faster, stronger. There’s a lot more stuff to learn,” he said. “I feel pretty good honestly. It’s just making sure you’re familiar with your assignments.”

Strange said he’s learning from Patriots’ standouts past and present. He’s talking to David Andrews and Trent Brown alongside him while watching former standout guards on film.


“We have a good room. Guys are helping out the rookies. We’ve got questions,” said Strange, who has studied film of Logan Mankins and Joe Thuney. “A bunch of the film of plays we’re installing is old film, so we’ll see some of those guys.”

The practice heat figures to rise next week when the players are allowed to get into pads after the mandated five-day ramp-up is over. He said he didn’t have an opinion on the NFL’s rules of progression in camp.

“I’m doing whatever it is they want us to do. If they want us to slowly ramp up, we’ll do that. If they want us to bash our heads into the ground, we’ll do that too,” he said. “I’m just kind of ready for whatever. Honestly, I’m just glad to be out there.”

ONCE AGAIN it was DeVante Parker who stole the show at Day 2 of training camp.

In a 7-on-7 drill, Mac Jones completed a back-shoulder throw to the right corner of the end zone where Parker was heavily covered by defensive back Jalen Mills. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound receiver dived, caught the ball and narrowly got both feet down for the touchdown.

“Mac sees where the defender is,” Parker said. “He put it in a great spot.”


Parker’s teammates and the crowd went wild.

“Everyone’s riled up,” Parker said. “You love it.”

This atmosphere at training camp is different than what Parker experienced during his years playing with the Miami Dolphins and it was clear that he was feeding off the energy from the crowd.

“That’s what it’s about,” Parker said. “Have fun, coming out with your brothers and working hard every day.”

Mills has been matched up with Parker on numerous drills during the first two days of camp and is excited about what Parker brings to the Patriots’ offense.

“Big energy,” Mills said. “Big tall guy. Really liked (Wednesday when) he scored that touchdown, and he kind of turned the crowd up. You want to see that.”

Parker was the star of the opening day of camp on Wednesday, making three contested catches in the end zone.

“It’s good to have him and he had a good spring,” Belichick said prior to practice on Thursday. “We’ll just take it day by day here and I’m not trying to evaluate guys based on one play or one practice or one period. There’s going to be a lot of football played, and we’ll see how things turn out over an extended period of time. Consistency and production.”

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