After missing last season due to a torn ACL – and having been signed as a free agent from Dallas who was projected to start in the Saints’ new 3-4 defensive scheme – Butler simply is ready to be back on the field in a game in whatever capacity he’s needed.
So the six-year veteran is a rookie-like bundle of energy during New Orleans’ organized team activities (OTAs).
“My role is to get out there and help make this defense – which was, to me, the No. 1 defense in the league – even better,” Butler said. “Whether that’s coming off the bench or coming out of the tunnel first.
“You feel like you get out there in OTAs, you get out there in minicamps and training camp and you let your play do the talking for you. You get out there and you make plays, you don’t make mistakes and you earn the trust and confidence of your teammates, and the rest of it will sort itself out.”
And Butler desperately wants to be part of the sorting process.
Last year, about 11 weeks after signing a two-year contract with the Saints as a free agent from Dallas, Butler tore his ACL in a collision with running back
He was placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list to open the season, which gave him an opportunity to rehab his knee and possibly make a late return during the regular season. But he couldn’t sufficiently rehab to come back during the year, and was placed on injured reserve Dec. 11.
“It felt horrible but the great thing was you got to watch great guys out there make a playoff run,” he said. “And now, coming back, you get to be a part of that.
“You just know you’re not ready (with the knee last year). Now, I feel more ready than ever. There’s no pain there. You’ve got your little aches and pains from soreness, but nothing that says you can’t go. And last year, you had little things that said, ‘You’re not ready.’ That’s all it was.”
He’s full go and looks like the full Butler according to Ryan, who was Butler’s defensive coordinator in Dallas, too.
“It’s great to get him back out there,” Ryan said. “He looks healthy; I can’t wait. Right now, our tempo is that we’re working on our scheme, our communication on our scheme, and how we operate.
“This isn’t a full-contact camp, so that’s when I think Victor will really show up where he’s off his injury and things. Right now we’re working hard, we’re getting the communication, and we’re running the ball and doing the little things. That’s what this thing is: Getting the details and doing a good job.”
Butler already has a good start on the details. And he hopes to be as effective as a linebacker as he was last year as a prognosticator.
In 2013, he forecast that the Saints defense would be the best in the NFL. At season’s end, New Orleans ranked fourth in total defense (305.7 yards per game), second in passing yards allowed (194.1) and surrendered 31 touchdowns, after allowing 440.1, 292.6 and 49, respectively, in those categories in 2012.
“Last year wasn’t even really a prediction,” Butler said. “It was just, you get in here and you look at these guys – it’s like you go outside and you know the sky is blue. When you get in this locker room and you look at these guys, I knew they were going to be a top 10 defense. Period. You just know.
“This year, it’s the same feeling. Guys are out here working hard. Offseason workouts, you had almost 100 percent participation so when you’ve got guys out there and it matters to them and everybody cares and everybody is exerting the same energy, I feel like we’re going to be even better this year.”
No doubt, he’s projecting a better year for himself, too.