BOSTON (CBS) — Asking a rookie wide receiver to make an immediate impact on the New England Patriots is a tall order. It’s one of the few aspects of football that hasn’t really worked out during this incredible dynastic run in New England.
But the Patriots are confident that N’Keal Harry can buck that trend in 2019, and there’s reason to believe the 21-year-old will reward Bill Belichick for making him his first and only receiver drafted in the first-round. Among the many folks in Foxboro trying to teach Harry the ropes of the NFL, two of the best of the best are by his side this summer.
In one corner is Troy Brown, a man who will never have to purchase a beverage in New England. (At least, he better not.) One of the best receivers to ever put on a Patriots uniform, Brown has been teaching Harry the ropes in the early goings of camp. While they’re a bit different in build — with Brown just 5-foot-10 and Harry standing at 6-foot-4 — Brown’s lessons are giving Harry a feel for the entire field.
“He’s just teaching me how to be a complete receiver and how to take my game to the next level,” Harry said of Brown on Sunday. “He’s one of the greatest receivers that’s ever played here. I’ve learned a lot from him, and I’m going to keep asking him questions and keep learning from him.”
In the other corner, of course, is one Tom Brady. The Patriots quarterback welcomed Harry for a private workout along with Julian Edelman ahead of minicamp, and has been active in teaching the rookie on the sidelines during camp. Harry has been in Brady’s side sessions during the opening days of camp, as the quarterback and his receivers try to develop a rapport ahead of the season. That 1-on-1 time with Brady is important for the rookie, and should pay dividends when the season arrives in six weeks.
“It’s a big help having him out there, helping me make it through training camp and just helping me clean up my details,” Harry said of having the future Hall of Famer as his quarterback. “Just a lot of technique and timing stuff. Those things will come the more we’re on the field together.”
Harry said he isn’t even starstruck when Brady calls his number.
“At this point, he’s my teammate so it’s starting to get a little more normal now,” the rookie admitted.
Harry has flashed his potential in the first days of camp, catching a pair of touchdowns in 11-on-11 drills. But he knows he has a lot of work to do in the dog days of summer, which he hopes will lead to a big rookie season this fall.
“My focus is coming out and improving every day. If I make a mistake, I don’t make that mistake twice,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in the way I play, the effort I put when I’m out on the field. That is something that I feel like gives me a big advantage out there.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. Whatever I did in college doesn’t matter; I’m in the NFL now,” he added. “It’s a clean slate and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get our team wins.”