Ex-Michigan football player Carson Butler on practice: 'I didn't pay attention to the hours'
ALLEN PARK - Carson Butler hadn't heard anything concerning allegations of potential NCAA violations when he arrived at work on Monday.
But when he saw his former coach Rich Rodriguez on television and heard Detroit Lions teammates discussing the University of Michigan football program, that all changed.
Butler, who played under Rodriguez and was signed as a free agent tight end by the Lions in early August, said he wasn't aware of current conditions in Rodriguez's Wolverines program.
But in discussing his time in Ann Arbor, Butler said he wasn't aware of rules specifying how many hours players can spend in workouts in the off-season or during the week during the season.
"It seemed like we were there just like we were (before Rodriguez was hired) and we were just working every day," Butler said after the Lions completed practice Monday afternoon. "I really didn't pay attention to the hours -Â I really didn't even know how many hours we were supposed to go a week."
Butler said it's difficult to compare workouts under Rodriguez and former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr because they were so different.
As far as allegations go that Michigan players were forced to spend much of their Sundays after games at the football facility, Butler said he couldn't remember how much time was spent. He said the sessions "didn't seem too much to me," and he wouldn't go along with his former Michigan teammate Terrance Taylor, who said players often spent nine or 10 hours on Sundays at Schembechler Hall.
Sunday was reserved for going over game film and making corrections, Butler said. And when it came to whether voluntary workouts are actually voluntary, Butler fit his experience inside boundaries set at other schools.
"In college football, ain't too much voluntary," he said. "If the weight room is open, you're going to go. If it's a run, you're going to go, if it's a workout, you're going to go whether it was voluntary or not. That's every player on the team. For all of the years I was there, everything that was voluntary, I remember every player on the team being there.
"Especially at this level, you're supposed to be in there, and that's how it was."
Butler said expectations for working out were the same under Carr and Rodriguez, and that both coaches prepared him for the style of offense the Wolverines played at the time.
Under current strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis, Butler said he felt more explosive, preparing him for a chance to play in the NFL. Butler called Barwis "a great guy."
The story also caught the attention of former Michigan captains Jon Jansen and Jeff Backus. Jansen said he was disappointed to hear about the allegations and said he is worrried about every player in the Michigan locker room.
He said with the pressure that exists to win after a 3-9 season, having to deal with this on a week when preparations are beginning for Saturday's season-opener against Western Michigan is unfortunate.
"It's frustrating - especially as alumni," Jansen said Monday. "It's frustrating to see this go on."
Both Jansen and Backus said staying within limits for workouts was never an issue under Carr.
Jansen said part of being part of Michigan's program meant knowing what players could and couldn't do - whether it meant dealing with alumni, having dinner out in public or preparing for the next season in the weight room.
And Jansen said at least when he played at Michigan, players knew what the rules were and followed them.
"There was a tradition we were carrying on," Jansen said. "As a captain, it was something took on, I know Jeff (Backus) did after me and I know guys did before me. But there was never an issue of coaches making us do things or it being a time issue."
Jansen said during his time at Michigan, there were no repercussions when it came to not attending voluntary workouts. He said there was never a be-there-or-else mentality - an issue that came into play when former Wolverines quarterback Drew Henson spent his summers playing baseball.
Backus said he walked into a tradition where 7-on-7 drills were run by quarterbacks, there were schools for offensive and defensive linemen that were run by upperclassmen and that Sundays were spent reviewing film and maybe going for a short run.
"That's just what we did there, and it was just part of being a Michigan football player," he said.
Backus said the most disappointing aspect of the situation was the bad light it cast Michigan in.
"I know how it was when I was there -Â we went by the rules," he said. "As far as what's going on there now and how the players are being treated or whatever it is, I haven't experienced it.
"I know what happened when I was there and Lloyd (Carr) always had our best interest at heart."
Jeff Arnold covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at 734-623-2554 or firstname.lastname@example.org