The Las Vegas Raiders selected defensive tackle Matthew Butler out of Tennessee in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and since that time, things haven’t exactly gone to plan for Butler.
He’s played in eight total games for the Raiders, six in his rookie season, and two in the 2023 season. He wants to contribute more than that, but he’s spent quite a bit of time on the Las Vegas practice squad.
Butler said that the primary thing he wants fans to understand about practice squad players is that they do have talent.
“We’re not garbage football players by any stretch of the imagination,” he said in an interview with SB Nation prior to the Super Bowl.
And he’s right. Players on the practice squad are absolutely good enough to play in the NFL; if they weren’t, no teams would squander a valuable practice squad spot and salary on them. Landing a starting job in the National Football League isn’t easy, and the practice squad is just the path some guys have to take.
“This bump in the road has changed my life in a positive way, has changed my play in a positive way,” Butler said, “has changed my relationships in the building, and believe it or not, at home in a positive way.”
“I did not like the experience,” Butler continued. “I didn’t think the experience was particularly fair. At the same time, though, that’s what God had for me, and I’m very thankful for it nonetheless. And I’m going to make the most out of it, not only this upcoming year, but all the years after that, to make sure that I can prove myself to myself, prove myself to this wonderful organization that brought me in, and prove myself to the league, and continue to just bring God the glory in everything that I do.”
Butler believes the future for the Raiders is bright under the leadership of new head coach Antonio Pierce.
“What’s so exciting about him is the trust that he cultivates in our locker room and in our building, because he was a former player,” Butler said. “But he hates to say that — he is a player. So you know, that bond that you have from player to player, those shared experiences that you have from player to player, all of those similarities in our ebbs and our flows, in our day, in our year, in our career — he’s seen that, and he’s won on the highest level. So you can’t ask for too much more.
We talked about a few things other than the Raiders, too.
The best piece of advice he’s ever received
“The best piece of advice I ever got — man, I have so many — I have a lot of wise people in my life, from my grandmother, my mom and dad...
“My grandmother always tells me to just keep pushing. And that just sounds so simple, but it’s so multifaceted, too. My dad told me that it’s always more important to listen than to speak. And my mom always told me to never stop learning ... oh, and always leave a place better than how you found it,” Butler said.
“So those are some things that just have been taught to me, but also that I intentionally try to integrate into my life and what I do, not only on the football field, but in my house ... wherever I meet people.”
On the coaches who have helped him grow as a player and a person
“I would be doing a big disservice if I didn’t name a couple of coaches, because I went through seven d-line coaches in college. I’ve been through two just so far in the NFL. But Tracy Rocker, he had a big impact on me — in a kind of run-around, odd way, but he did have a big impact on me.
“Rodney Garner (at Tennessee) had a humongous impact on me. You know, just with teaching me how to play the game. Both of them were very hard on me, which I appreciate to this day.
“Jeremy Pruitt had a big impact on me and my family. He’s met almost everybody in my family. Butch Jones brought me in to play at Tennessee. And of course, Josh Heupel is the guy who was coaching when I had this tremendous opportunity to play in the NFL. And now that I’ve gotten to the NFL, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler. They brought me in to this wonderful organization that is the Las Vegas Raiders.
“And now we have Antonio Pierce. We have Rob Leonard, who’s this one of the best D-line coaches I’ve ever had. We have a tremendous coordinator with Patrick Graham. So like I said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t name all those guys, and it’s probably more that I’m not naming, but those guys are some of the biggest guys who have had had impacts in my career, whether it be directly or indirectly, in a tremendous way.”
On the advice he has for the 49ers vs. the Chiefs in Super Bowl 58
First and foremost, Butler wants Raiders fans to know that he is absolutely not rooting for either of these teams.
“I’m a Raider. Let’s make that clear,” he said. “You can put that in bold; make it the title of the interview.”
But he also loves to watch good defense, and that’s what he’s hoping to see on Sunday.
“One thing I do want to see anytime I watch a football game is the rush,” he said. “You gotta love it, you just rush the quarterback. And I love doing that, impacting the quarterback, and I’m hoping to see a great football game.
“And you know, obviously it goes without saying: Every team, including the Raiders, wants to be here next year. And that’s what we’re striving for.”
To get to know Butler better, follow him on Instagram at matthewbutler.94, where he shares information about his foundation efforts, photos of his family, and things he likes to do around Las Vegas.