Published January 31, 2017
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It has been more than 21 months since Malcolm Butler picked off a Russell Wilson pass at the goal line, allowing the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl as the world wondered why Pete Carroll didn't have Wilson hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch.
On Sunday night, the teams -- and those two players -- meet again, this time in Foxborough.
"We all know what happened," Butler said Wednesday. "It always (brings a smile) whenever I think back on it, but that's not going to help us win this game.
"This is bigger than me. That play will not help us Sunday night, so we have to be ready to play."
It might not be about Butler, Wilson and Carroll, but you can guess how many times NBC will show the play and delve deeper into it Sunday night.
In some ways, the play will overshadow another game between two good football teams. The Patriots are 7-1 with a three-game lead in the AFC East and the favorites to come out of the AFC. The Seahawks, 5-2-1 and atop the NFC West, are always a factor in the NFC.
Butler was a rookie when he made that interception and is developing into one of the top cornerbacks in the league.
"He's a really good player," Carroll told the New England media via conference call Wednesday. "Good ballplayer. He seems really instinctive and aggressive and confident. He's done a nice job."
While Seattle is coming off a 31-25 Monday Night Football win over the Buffalo Bills that snapped the Seahawks' two-game winless streak, New England is coming out of a bye week -- the Patriots still very much in the news even without playing.
The Patriots are 12-4 under Bill Belichick/Tom Brady coming out of a bye.
The day after their last game -- also a win over Buffalo -- the Patriots traded Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns for a draft pick, stunning the football world with the move.
Then, after a weekend of watching football on television, came Election Day, and the questions over Brady and his support for Donald Trump and a letter sent by Belichick to the then-candidate showing support.
Asked Wednesday why he gave Trump permission to talk about the quarterback's support, Brady said, "Why did I give him permission? So you're assuming I gave people permission?" Asked again if he did, he said, "I'm just going to talk about football this week."
Finally, asked if he in fact supported Trump, Brady, who said he liked people or teams that win, said, "Yeah, I talked to my wife; she said I can't talk about politics anymore, so I think that's a good decision made for our family."
Belichick confirmed his letter.
"I've received a number of inquiries relative to a note that I wrote to Donald on Monday," he said. "Our friendship goes back many years and I think anybody that's spent more than five minutes with me knows I'm not a political person. My comments aren't politically motivated. I have a friendship and a loyalty to Donald.
"A couple of weeks ago, we had Secretary of State (John) Kerry in our locker room. He's another friend of mine. I can't imagine two people with more different political views than those two, but to me friendship and loyalty is just about that. It's not about political or religious views.
"I write hundreds of letters and notes every month. It doesn't mean I agree with every single thing that every person thinks about politics, religion or other subjects. But I have multiple friendships that are important to me and that's what that was about. It's not about politics.
"It's about football. We have a huge game this week against a great football team, a great organization, and that's where it all is going forward on Seattle."
Carroll, the former New England coach, said, "I like coming back. I had a good time there. It's kind of fun, you guys have so much good stuff. It's kind of an honor to have a chance to play."
As far as what he might have said to his players about the election, Carroll said, "We've always addressed whatever's at hand, going on around the country in all different areas and ways, to some extent. Not always in great detail, but we try to stay up with what's topical and what's current."