INDIANAPOLIS –Playing in the NFL is all about opportunity, and cornerback Darius Butler has a huge one in Indianapolis.
Butler, a second-round pick by New England in 2009, joined the Colts in September and now mans the starting spot on the right side.
He made his first start for the Colts memorable last Thursday at Jacksonville. Opening for the injured Jerraud Powers, Butler swiped two passes and recovered a fumble in the team's 27-10 victory.
Butler earned AFC Defensive Player-of-the-Week honors and nearly recorded a franchise first. After returning his first interception 11 yards for a score, Butler returned his second one 51 yards deep into Jacksonville territory, almost becoming the first Colts defender to have two such scores in a game.
Butler's play caught Interim Head Coach Bruce Arians' eye.
"He gets to be a starter," said Arians. "You get an opportunity, Wally Pipp. That's the whole beauty of the mantra, 'Next Man Up.' Don't give it up, once you get it. (General Manager) Ryan (Grigson) gave him an opportunity to reclaim a career, and he's making the best of it."
Butler appreciates the chance that has come his way.
"Personally, it's huge. This is probably my last opportunity. Guys only get so many opportunities in this league. I'm fortunate enough to have this one, and I want to make the best of it. You never know when your time is up. Anything can happen."
Butler made his play on the NFL Network stage in front of analyst Mike Mayock. Mayock said during the game this could be Butler's last chance to play, but that he always had been impressed with Butler. Butler had sought Mayock out before the game to exchange pleasantries because he remembered the analyst speaking well of him in the Pro Day and Combine process.
Butler hoped and prepared for this opportunity. He was geared for the moment.
"I'm definitely ready. (You) always got to be ready to be the next man up," said Butler. "That can come at any time. Jerraud (Powers) went down with his injury, and I have to step up and do whatever it takes to help this team win."
As Indianapolis tries to win a fifth game in a row in keeping pace among AFC leaders, Butler returns to a familiar environment in Foxborough. The Colts have not won five consecutive games since 2009 and only nine current Colts were on hand then. The Patriots have the NFL's best regular season home record (70-14, .833) since 2002, and they are 36-8 after Halloween since Gillette Stadium opened that year.
What can make a venue tough is the inhabitants, and Butler will be facing the league's top offense. Tom Brady is 130-38 as a starter, earning the highest winning percentage in NFL Super Bowl era history among quarterbacks with at least 50 starts.
Butler practiced against Brady for two years and has not forgotten what he saw personally.
"He's incredible. Even when you're practicing with him every day, you're still shocked at some of the places he puts the ball," said Butler. "He's special. There are only a handful of guys who can do the things he does."
Butler and the Colts know the Patriots rank fifth in the league in rushing average and seventh against the pass, so clamping down is a key to succeed.
"It's the balance," said Butler of the biggest challenge the Patriots present. "Whenever they have a balanced attack, you're in deep trouble. You want to at least make them one-dimensional, take away the running game and make them pass, or the opposite. You can't let them have the two-headed monster."
Butler should meet New England wide receiver Wes Welker during the day. The two former practice battlers now do so in live action.
"He's incredibly athletic," said Welker of Butler. "I don't know if y'all have seen him jump but he's a very, very athletic player. He's obviously had a couple interceptions this year and been playing some really good ball and has really come along. He's definitely very, very talented."
Butler would not say whether he has an edge or not since he is familiar with New England's talent.
"I don't know. Just like I know them, they know me," said Butler. "We'll see when the game is played on Sunday what edge is there."