BOSTON (CBS) — Entering his third NFL season, and with the added weight of his agent bluntly requesting a trade earlier in the summer, N’Keal Harry entered Patriots training camp with a unique level of pressure.
Harry won’t ultimately get to answer all of the questions until the season begins next month. But thus far on the practice fields, Harry has undeniably made a positive impression.
For the second consecutive day, Harry made the best catch of any Patriots player on Wednesday, drawing oohs and ahhs from the crowd and certainly drawing the attention of the coaching staff.
For the second straight day, N’Keal Harry makes a play that sparks arguably the loudest reaction from the crowd. This one came on a slant, a laser thrown by Cam Newton that was sightly ahead of him, and Harry outstretched his arms to snare it. Inspector Gadget-like.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) August 4, 2021
N’Keal Harry was my player of the day. Had him down for six catches on six targets in competitive team drills. His full-extension grab vs. J.C. Jackson was one of the top highlights.
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) August 4, 2021
N’Keal Harry’s hot streak continues. Just hauled in a high and hot one from Newton in the left hash. Looked like a keeper saving a penalty kick.
— Tom E. Curran (@tomecurran) August 4, 2021
FWIW: I've covered all three of N'Keal Harry's training camps with the #Patriots. This is by far the best he has looked in practice.
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) August 4, 2021
Harry has, without a doubt, been a disappointment for the Patriots, who drafted him with the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 draft. Injuries limited him to just seven games in his rookie season, during which he caught 12 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 49 yards on five carries. Last year, he played in 14 games but caught just 33 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
In early July, Harry’s agent released a statement which said that Harry wasn’t in the best place to thrive, and that the “dominant downfield threat” was looking for a new place to call home. The Patriots, of course, have not traded him just yet. And they may not trade him at all.
For now, Harry is showing on the practice field that he’s been putting in the work during the offseason.
“N‘Keal, he came into camp with a great attitude, ready to go, in shape. And he’s out here just like the rest of the guys in the group. He’s fighting for a spot and he’s done everything so far that we’ve asked him to do,” said wide receivers/kick returners coach Troy Brown.
Wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi said that the trade request hasn’t soured the receiver’s relationship with the team at all.
“I know what was reported, and all that stuff, but I just know N’Keal is a guy that I’ve grown to really admire and love,” Lombardi said. “He’s a player on our team and in our room and I think really highly of N’Keal for how he comes in here and works. I have a great relationship with N’Keal. We are business-first. He comes in here and works extremely hard, and I appreciate that. He’s very hard working. You know what? I’m going to come and coach him as hard as I can every day and he’s going to come out here and work hard every day. That’s really all I can ask of him. That’s what he asks of me. He expects me to coach him hard. He’s going to work hard because I coach him hard, and we expect a lot out of him.”
While Harry’s size and strength has never been in question, the receiver worked on improving his mobility in the offseason.
“I feel like the past couple years I’ve been focusing on playing so big and just trying to just play big. I feel like I lost a little of my wiggle,” Harry said last week. “So this past offseason that’s what I focused on a lot. A lot of agility drills and stuff like that just to try to get that wiggle back.”
Harry said he was excited to see the free-agent additions made to the team in the offseason, including the additions of Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor at receiver. The 23-year-old said that despite the trade request, he can envision a spot on the team for himself.
“I feel like we have so many good players on this team and I feel like at some point, at one point or another, we’re going to be able to make a difference,” Harry said. “And I’m just trying to make sure I can fit in somewhere.”
Whether Harry’s summertime showcase leads to him getting a spot on the Patriots’ roster or enticing other teams to make a trade, his first real opportunity to show what he’s got will come next Thursday, in the Patriots’ preseason opener against Washington.