By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — For the foreseeable future, everything Cam Newton does in New England will be compared to his predecessor. Such is only natural when someone of Tom Brady’s stature occupies a job for two decades.READ MORE: Pfizer Says Its COVID-19 Vaccine More Than 90% Effective In Kids Ages 5-To-11
And while Brady may indeed be the greatest of all time in numerous categories, one area in which he was decidedly not the best was in developing rapports with young, inexperienced receivers. The story on Brady was that he demanded perfection, and that as soon as a young receiver messed up, Brady would eliminate that player from the trust tree.
Was it 100 percent accurate? No. Was the knock entirely fair? Not always. (It’s not as if Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson went on to flourish elsewhere, you know?) Nevertheless, the narrative existed.
Through one week of football, it would appear as though Cam Newton won’t carry that same tag. The new Patriots quarterback spoke to the media on Wednesday in what has become a typically thoughtful, in-depth, and wide-ranging weekly conversation. At one point, he was asked about N’Keal Harry’s goal-line fumble, a mistake which cost the Patriots a touchdown. (It also kept Newton’s passing touchdown number at zero.)
An animated Newton immediately went to bat for the second-year receiver, seeking to shield Harry from any and all criticism for his overall performance in the season opener.
“I spoke with N’Keal and let’s just put a lot of things into perspective here. All right — did he have a good game? Yes he did,” Newton said. “I think that one play overshadowed the production that he did have. He bailed me out on a play, on a kind of inaccurate pass that he came down with and got the first down. He did pretty good in the run game. He had a couple of contested catches, and all of that was kind of for naught because a lot of people just focused on the fumble. And granted, I’ll be the first person to tell you, he knows — or he would be the first person to tell you — that he knows that’s unacceptable. But obviously when you put things into perspective and call an apple an apple and a spade a spade, it was just one mistake.”
The bailout play which Newton referenced came when the quarterback recognized a Miami blitz, gave a signal to Harry, and then quickly fired a pass to the big-bodied receiver on a slant in the third quarter. Harry reached back and hauled in the pass, which was behind him, before dragging two defenders to the line to gain.READ MORE: Tufts University Student Dies After Choking On Hot Dog In Charity Event Contest
That reception came in the midst of what was probably the best drive of Harry’s young career. Alas, that drive ended with Harry trying to do a little bit too much when he was stripped of the ball while reaching for the goal line, leading to a fumble into the end zone for a turnover and a touchback.
“Him still being a young player trying to come into his own, things like that will happen,” Newton said. “You just want them to be minimized as much as possible. But he’s making leaps and strides as everyone would expect him to be. He’s growing up into his best self and for him, after chatting with him, he knows. He knows he has to make practice game-like and that’s the only thing that you can imagine.”
While Newton is likely not in tune with some of the minute criticisms that local media and some fans have made on Brady over the years, his final comment on Harry nevertheless stood out in stark contrast to Brady’s history with developing young receivers.
“The thing that makes me and N’Keal even closer is I told him my spiel, obviously being in Carolina, but I’ve had a N’Keal in my life for as long as my career has existed,” Newton explained. “Being a high-invested draft pick dating back to Kelvin Benjamin to Devin Funchess, those young guys. Me also being young at the time too, then you invest in Curtis Samuel, D.J. Moore, Christian McCaffrey, so it’s nothing new to come on a team and you have a young talent at receiver and trying to morph him into the best player that he can possibly be. And I know N’Keal is buying in, not only to my theory and methods but also to the team’s as well. And plays like that are going to happen, and we just hope that that’s the only time it will happen.”
Newton’s perspective certainly stands out. Harry did make a career-high five catches for a career-high 39 yards. Those may not be impressive numbers overall, but despite the fumble, Newton saw it as an important step forward to a player who should be important to the offense.
Harry was back on the field for the Patriots’ next offensive drive after his fumble, with his team holding tight to a three-point lead in the fourth quarter. He didn’t get much action as the team marched 75 yards for the game-clinching touchdown, but Newton’s comments surely indicated that he won’t hesitate to look the way of No. 15 the next time he gets a chance.MORE NEWS: Massachusetts Unemployment Rate Up To 5.2%, Slightly Higher Than National Average