The popular thought that arose after the Ravens terminated the contract of Jeremy Butler on Saturday afternoon was that the wide receiver's inability to contribute on special teams led to his departure.
Coach John Harbaugh said the 6-foot-2, 213-pound Butler, who led the team in the preseason with 16 catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns, had developed into a special teams player. But a pressing need for a return specialist forced the team's hand.
"That was one of the toughest conversations – if not the toughest conversation – because in my mind, he deserved to make the team," Harbaugh said Tuesday. "He earned it based on the fact he made those plays. Circumstances just dealt him and us a tough situation because we needed a returner.
"He can play special teams. He's a good special teams player. He's learned how to play special teams since he's been here. So [special teams coordinator] Jerry [Rosburg] was all for him being on the team as a teamer. But we needed a returner. When you looked at who would have to go and stay, just for the team, he was a guy who there wasn't a chair left for in the end."
The Ravens eventually got the return specialist they sought in Devin Hester, the NFL's all-time leader in return touchdowns who signed a contract on Monday. Butler elected to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squad.