If anybody can relate to N’Keal Harry, it’s Malcolm Mitchell.
The former Patriots receiver barely contributed in the first half of his rookie season before emerging as a legitimate weapon down the stretch. Mitchell, of course, played a big role in New England’s comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
And Harry, now off injured reserve, is hoping to make a splash similar to what Mitchell made three years ago.
Obviously, that’s no easy task. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is notorious for having a thin leash with young receivers, and only has grown stricter as his career has neared its end. So, how can Harry ingratiate himself with Brady?
Mitchell, who in March retired from pro football due to various injuries, recently spoke to ESPN’s Mike Reiss about how he gained Brady’s trust.
From Reiss’ Sunday notes column:
“I earned that through practice, not through games. Way before I got on the field, I had to execute in practice consistently. Every day needs to be your best. Every rep needs to be 100 percent, I don’t care what you’re doing.
“It took months, and it took some tough, constructive criticism from him, and from coaches. I had to embrace it and say, ‘I won’t allow it to happen again. No repeat errors.’ The thing I would tell (Harry) is consistency in everything you do, and I promise you the opportunities will come. Don’t worry about today; I remember my rookie season, the first six games, I didn’t do anything. It wasn’t until I earned that trust, through constant repetition and execution of plays in practice, that I started to get those opportunities.”
When recalling a time that Brady criticized him and other receivers during a meeting, Mitchell added: “That night, I laid down and said, ‘That will never happen again. He will never call me out like that again. There will be no self-inflicted wounds.’ ”
That’s some sound advice.
Harry traveled with the Patriots to Philadelphia this weekend, and all signs point toward the 2019 first-round pick making his NFL debut when New England faces the Eagles on Sunday afternoon.