One of the bigger question marks going into this season is 2019 fourth-round wide receiver Hakeem Butler, who missed all of his rookie season after injuring his finger in a preseason game. Because of the injury -- a nasty avulsion fracture -- Butler was placed on injured reserve during the preseason, preventing him from returning at any point during the year. That also prevented any on-field practice.
Butler rehabbed faithfully during the year, and attended meetings. But he didn't talk about his situation much. That changed this week when he appeared on "The Last Word With March" podcast and spoke about his injury and lost rookie year.
Butler was injured against the Raiders, when he went into a game on special teams on the kickoff return team. Butler said he was excited just to be getting on the field.
"I'm trying to play anywhere I can," Butler said. "I'm just trying to see the field. I get in there, and I go to block a dude, and I kill him -- it was like a kill shot, it was clean, I hit him on the shoulder -- but I got my hands in there and my finger got caught in his jersey. When I knocked him over, my finger went with him."
The resulting torn ligaments and bone injury was "real bad," but Butler wanted to continue playing. He finished the game, but it was soon clear his season would be ending on IR.
"I've never been hurt in my entire career," Butler said. "It was a changing moment for me. ... It was like a redshirt year for me. I learned a lot, being in there every day, learning from Larry (Fitzgerald) and everybody else."
Butler said he's excited to play with both Fitz and DeAndre Hopkins. He hasn't talked to Hopkins one-on-one but said all the receivers got together on a Zoom chat recently.
"You know how much I watched that dude," Butler said of Hopkins. "That's how I try to play."
As for Fitz, "that's the OG," Butler said. "The way he works every day and the way he carries himself, that's why he's been in the league so long. ... The man is special. He's Larry Legend for a reason."
On the podcast, Butler also talked about the unique story of his upbringing, but is clearly anxious to finally get back on the field.
"The hardest thing was rehabbing and sitting out as a whole," Butler said. "I come from Iowa State where I was 'The Man.' ... I come in here, and it's like, 'Bro, you can't even go practice.' I just felt like a little kid and your mom is like, 'You can't go outside today.' "