CANTON, Ohio – At this point in his career – his fifth NFL preseason to be exact – Brice Butler wasn't too quick to pat himself on the back about a nice outing in the Hall of Fame Game.
"It's just practice, you know what I'm saying? This is my fifth preseason, and preseason games are just practice," he deadpanned after the game.
That might be true, but it's worth noting that Butler has been practicing extremely well during the Cowboys' training camp practices in Oxnard, Calif. From his coach's perspective, it was encouraging to see the young receiver take that success to a game – even if it was an exhibition.
"Brice certainly has the kind of ability to make those plays," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "He's been more consistent throughout training camp. It was good to see him show up in this game."
"Those plays" were exactly the type of plays Butler has become known for during his time in Dallas.
In the first quarter, with the Cowboys already trailing 15-0 and facing a long field, Kellen Moore flipped the script when he found Butler down the sideline against one-on-one coverage for a 46-yard gain. The pickup would eventually lead to a Rico Gathers touchdown.
Later on, with the deficit cut to 15-7, Moore looked toward Butler again – finding him on a crucial 3rd-and-9 for a 32-yard gain on a diving catch, eventually setting up a Cowboys field goal.
Both gain came against man coverage, which Butler called a mistake on the Cardinals' part. But in the first preseason game of this NFL season, he said it's a mistake he understands.
"You have to do that in preseason, because you have to see if your guys can cover. You've got to see who can play man-to-man," he said. "Typically, that's all you see in preseason – just man-to-man, one-high safety. Because you've got to see who can cover."
None of this is to say Butler was perfect. He and Moore misfired at one point when Butler came back toward the line of scrimmage on a route that was supposed to push downfield – a mental mistake the wide out took responsibility for.
Despite that, Butler's 78 yards led all receivers and once again showed his potential as a big-play threat – for Moore, or whoever else might be throwing the ball.
"Going into the game, he knows – who can I count on to make a play when he needs it? You've just got to go make him right," he said.
Butler might have made his quarterback right on Thursday, but it didn't seem like much of an accomplishment for a savvy NFL veteran. In his best self-deprecating manner, Butler pointed out that he's gotten plenty of experience playing in the preseason to this point in his career.
"In my life, it seems like I get more opportunities in the preseason than the regular season," he said. "I feel more comfortable in the preseason than I do in the regular season."
That might be true. But as he continues to piece good days together, it gets harder and harder to argue that Brice Butler isn't earning himself another regular season in Dallas.