Tribune Star Correspondent
Darius Butler knows the New England Patriots pretty well.
Any why not? Butler, a cornerback, was the Patriots' second-round pick in 2009. He had eight starts and played in 29 games over two seasons there before moving on to the Carolina Panthers last season. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 25 after starting six games for Carolina in 2011.
Now, with Jerraud Powers lost for the season with a toe injury, Butler will be the Colts' right cornerback for the rest of the season. That is, as long as he remains healthy. The former University of Connecticut standout suffered a shoulder injury against the Jets earlier this season and sat out a couple of games.
He moved into the Indianapolis defensive lineup last week against Jacksonville and responded by picking off a pair of passes and returning one for a touchdown. Butler also recovered a fumble as he earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
This week he gets to go back and try to prove to his former teammates and coaches in New England that the Patriots made a mistake in letting him go.
"Definitely ready. Always got to be ready to be the next man up. That can come at any time. Jerraud went down with his injury and I have to step up and do whatever it takes to help this team win," Butler said earlier this week.
“[Every game] all mean a lot. We’re both 6-3 right now. Obviously it’s a big important game especially in our conference. Definitely it means a little bit more to get back up there and have the opportunity to play against my old team so I’m looking forward to it.”
Prior to last week's game with the Jaguars, Butler got a bit of a pep talk from NFL Network game analyst Mike Mayock.
"I remember talking to him and on pro day coming out and at the combine coming out. I remember that he was real high on me," he recalled. "I kind of just talked to him. I told him that I would take advantage of my opportunity when given. I feel like I want to keep doing that, keep building.”
Disrupting Brady -- Everybody knows just how good New England quarterback Tom Brady is. The question posed to Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, as well as several Indianapolis defensive starters, was how to keep Brady from getting into any kind of rhythm during a game.
Sounds like a good idea. But how to accomplish the goal is what everybody wants to know.
“Tell me, I’d like to know that one too. He does get in a rhythm. Like most quarterbacks, you try to get him out of that rhythm. It’s hard to get good quarterbacks out of that rhythm, but we’re going to try," Manusky said Thursday.
Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, who has had some success at putting on a pass rush against Brady, says that the Patriots' signal caller is tough to get to before he gets rid of the football.
“Tom’s an amazing player. To be able to get to him, he’s not the fastest guy and all that. But he throws that ball quick and he understands the timing of certain pass plays and how to get rid of the ball and how not to get hit," Freeney said. "I guess that’s the formula of him playing for so long is to have that. So yeah, it’ll be a little bit special. I always like to get Tom.”
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis, who is due to return to the starting lineup after sitting out with a sore back, credits Brady's ability to read a defense and make quick decisions.
“It’s very hard because he’s a smart quarterback. You tip your hand and he’ll make you pay. We just have to eliminate that and just try to stay on top of things," Mathis said.
Injury list -- Sitting out of Thursday's practice were running back Donald Brown (knee), nose tackle Josh Chapman (knee), cornerback Vontae Davis (knee), tight end Coby Fleener (shoulder), and outside linebacker Robert Mathis (back).
Offensive tackle Winston Justice (knee) and center Samson Satele (back) both fully practiced. Mathis, Justice and Satele are all expected to start against the Patriots.
Brown will split time with Vick Ballard and Delone Carter, although Ballard will most likely start. Chapman will be a game-time decision. Davis and Fleener have already been ruled out of the game.