Safety first? It could be the case for Colts cornerback Darius Butler
ANDERSON, Ind. – It’s fair to ask if Darius Butler, nickel cornerback, now is Darius Butler, safety.
“Ask coach,” he said with his infectious grin.
After spending the vast majority of the offseason again honing his skills as the Indianapolis Colts corner covering the slot receiver, why has he spent the bulk of training camp working alongside Pro Bowl safety Mike Adams?
“That’s something you have to ask Chuck (Pagano) about,” Butler said.
Should we assume the move is temporary and a result of injuries to projected starter Clayton Geathers (broken bone in foot) and rookies T.J. Green (strained left calf) and Andrew Williamson (on injured reserve with a knee injury)? Also, Adams twisted his left ankle Sunday that has sidelined him the past two days.
“It’s coach’s decision,” Butler said. “Whatever they call me to do, I’ll do. I’ve got a pretty good grasp of the playbook. I can go anywhere on that backend.
“I’ll just play anywhere they need me to play.”
Butler paused, then smiled some more.
“They can tell me they need me to be a wild-cat quarterback and I’ll be over there in the offensive meetings,” he said. “Whatever it takes.”
Until Butler is told differently, it’s making a transition from corner to safety.
Maybe he returns to his natural position once everyone heals. He’s appeared in 54 regular-season games, 17 as a starter. He’s had nine interceptions and forced five fumbles.
But maybe he remains Darius Butler, safety.
“Whatever the coaches need,” Butler said. “I’m a football player. Wherever I have to get out there and however I have to help the team, I’m going to go out there and do.”
Coach Chuck Pagano calls it positional flexibility, a player being able to move from one spot to another without a massive drop-off in performance. That’s critical on game day when teams dress only 46 players.
Butler’s versatility deepens the secondary. On the offensive line, Jon Harrison is able to slide from center to guard while Denzelle Good is an option at guard and tackle.
Joe Reitz is the starting right tackle, but consider his resume since being claimed off waivers in September 2010. The breakdown of his 41 career starts: 19 at left guard, 14 at right tackle, six at right guard, two at left tackle.
Butler “gives you the flexibility if something happens,” Pagano said. “He knows all the spots. He can play outside. He can play nickel, obviously, and a really good nickel at that.
“He’s a bright, bright guy and he knows the defense inside and out. He knows everybody’s job, so he does a great job running the show back there.”
In a few of the Colts’ so-called “sub” packages, Butler has handled safety responsibilities.
“You have to do some different things at safety, but I know the position,” he said. “You get to see more of the formations, have to be aware of motions and things like that.
“It’s just getting my body used to making the movements and the calls.”
Besides, the NFL is all about giving the coaching staff a reason to keep you around.
“The more you can do,” Butler said. “I’ve never been a guy that says, ‘Coach, I can’t do that or I won’t do that.’ Before I came here I had never played nickel.”
Pagano insisted he seldom gets push-back from players when they’re asked to change positions.
“Guys love to play and they like to stay,” he said.