Molden steps up as Bodden steps out

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Molden steps up as Bodden steps out

FOXBORO - Antwaun Molden was a project when he came out of Eastern Kentucky in 2008. The Texans took him in the third round. The sentiment then was that he was probably taken too high. That changed to "definitely taken too high" when he was released at the end of training camp. Now he's the Patriots corner most likely to get additional reps with the surprising release of Leigh Bodden on Friday. Molden's eyes widened with surprise on Friday when I told him Bodden had been released. Having been cut less than two months ago himself, though, Molden meant it when he used the common "it's-a-business" refrain to move away from talking about a decision that's well above his pay grade. It is a business, indeed. And now Molden is going from a guy only devotees had heard of to one of the guys replacing a big-ticket free agent signing from 2010 that went belly-up in a big hurry. How Molden does his business will reflect on how the Patriots are doing theirs. Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty are likely to be the Sunday starters for the Patriots. Ras-I Dowling would come next, but he's hurt (still . . . again). So Molden will be in the mix against the Steelers. He's 6-foot-1, 198 pounds, long and athletic with excellent speed (sub-4.5)While in college, he transferred from the University of Toledo to Eastern Kentucky because he wasn't happy with his playing time. He really only had one year of low-level college football before being drafted.He played 35 defensive snaps in three years with the Texans. And the Texans couldn't coveranybody while Molden was there, so that seems damning. But the Patriots have turned other teams' trash into their own treasure often enough to used that evidence as conclusive that Molden can't play. Asked how he's progressed since being signed August 31, Molden said, "It's come along pretty good. I just have to stay consistent and do the things the coaches ask me to do and get better at it."And overall defensively?"I think we jelled as a team and we've been consistent with things that we've been doing," he explained. "We just have to keep getting better at the little things."Boilerplate stuff from a player about to be put in the frying pan aganst the Steelers.

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Butler came off of the Gillette Stadium practice field to a gaggle of reporters who had been interested in speaking to him all offseason. There had been speculation not too long ago that he'd be traded. There was speculation he might sign elsewhere as a restrcited free agent.

What he would say on those topics might prove to be informative. People were eager to hear from him. But it was what he didn't say that may have been the most interesting part of his first back-and-forth with reporters since Super Bowl LI.

In the rain, in front of a dozen or more microphones, following his team's third organized team activity practice, Butler was asked if he would like to be in New England beyond the 2017 season, the final year of his contract. 

"Can't predict the future," he said. "Whatever happens, happens."

Butler was given several opportunities to say that he'd like to stick with the Patriots for the long term, but he was non-committal. Though his presence on the roster for this season gives the Patriots a supremely talented cornerback duo, the fact that the team gave Stephon Gilmore a lucrative long-term contract this offseason makes Butler's long-term future in New England a bit hazy.

Playing for a restricted free agent tender worth $3.91 million, Butler was asked if it was difficult to separate the business side of things from his on-field performance.

"Not really," he insisted. "Just gotta come here and just play football. You gotta earn everything you want. Gotta come here, work hard each and every day. Nobody's gonna give you nothing."

He added: "Just gotta keep working. Ignore the noise, and just keep working. No matter what. You got a job to do no matter where you're at. Glad to be here to do this job."

Butler received significant interest from the Saints during the offseason, and he made a trip to New Orleans to visit the organization's facilities there. Unwilling to provide Butler with a big-money contract offer and turn over their first-round pick to the Patriots, the Saints decided to cease in their pursuit of the 27-year-old Super Bowl XLIX hero. 

Butler said he didn't wasn't always sure he was going to be in New England for 2017.

"You never know what's gonna happen, I was just sitting back patiently waiting," he explained. "Just doing what I can do, control only what I can control. I'm here now and that's what it is."

That Butler has been at Patriots workouts and OTA practices since signing his tender is an indication that he's ready to throw himself into the upcoming season with his sights set on performing as well as possible in order to put himself in the best position possible when he's scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of the year. 

"Wasn't gonna hurt nobody but myself if I missed this," he admitted. "This is extra time to get better, and that's what I'm out here to do. To get better and have another great year. Anything to help the team. Present a positive image."