FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts – One of the crowd’s biggest roars at the New England Patriots training camp this week was the result of a game played by someone who recently said they didn’t want to be with the team.
Wide receiver N’Keal Harry made a 30-yard back-shoulder catch in a one-on-one passing drill, twisting his body in the air before his 6-foot-4,225-pound frame with it touched the ground with a thud. Boom!
It was a “did you see that?” Training camp moment, with the reaction of the crowd causing a noticeable stir and asking a question: Could Harry, the 2019 first-round draft pick who failed to meet expectations for the draft slot (45 catches and four TDs in two seasons), possibly a writer and unexpected comeback story with a team that, according to his agent, doesn’t go well together?
Cornerback Jonathan Jones defended Harry in the play, describing what unfolded from his point of view – with quarterback Cam Newton supplying the football.
“We played out the reporting. It was a back-shoulder catch-and-throw, one of those games they’re good at, and they made the piece of what it’s like to face Harry.
“It’s physical. He’s a big body, a big target radius. He’s competitive.
That was a big part of what the Patriots liked about Harry, who was hailing from the state of Arizona in 2019, which resulted in them having him more success with the final first-round pick, 32 Metcalf, who were more successful in their first two NFL seasons had.
Receivers manager Mick Lombardi said Harry did well in the game as it was “a great job not only to be big but also to have a plan for the route, use your hands and get across the field with speed and confidence to run.”
The next day Harry had another game that caused a loud cheer, he reached out his arms to catch a Newton missile on a slope that at first looked as if it had been thrown too far in front of him. Lombardi said it was the type of game that highlights one important foundation – catching the football away from your body.
Harry’s positive results were also noted by Troy Brown, the assistant receiver’s trainer, who said, “He came into camp with a great attitude, is ready to get in shape. He is fighting for a spot and has done all that we asked of him. “
An injury in training camp as a rookie didn’t help Harry’s cause, and a 2020 season with limited training time due to the coronavirus pandemic was a challenge that had to be mastered. When the Patriots signed major contracts with free agents Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne in March and combined them with rising diamonds in Jakobi Meyer’s rough diamond, it brought Harry further down the depth map.
His agent Jamal Tooson publicly urged the Patriots to swap Harry before the training camp began – a request that was not approved.
“N’Keal and I talked about it. I think we had a good conversation,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “We have a good relationship, well [I’m] not go into any of this. “
Harry, 23, isn’t either, who has quietly put together seven training sessions in which he has caught pretty much every football that is thrown in his way.
“Right now I’m really not worried about trade issues,” he said. “I focus on being the best version of myself on the field.”
Harry added that it hasn’t been uncomfortable since the trade request was published and said, “I’m a patriot right now.
While Harry is not a planned starter, he is only an injury away from possibly being pushed into that role. If the Patriots were to trade him, they would hit the salary cap of between $ 1 million and $ 2 million, which would be a consideration for Belichick if he chooses to trade Harry.
For now, Harry is focused on what he can do on the field and his highlight reel play this week reflects how the approach is producing some early results for him.
He said one change he made this season is more focused on agility exercises; in the past two years he has focused on playing big and “lost a bit of momentum”.
“I feel like I’ve got off to a pretty good start,” he said. “Of course there is room for improvement in certain areas, but I’m pretty happy with my start so far and I’m looking forward to maintaining that momentum.
“We have so many good players on this team and at some point, at some point, we’ll be able to make a difference. I’m just trying to make sure I fit in somewhere.” … I just feel like I can really help this team win and I feel like I can play a huge role on this team. “