It’s hard not to contrast Cam Newton’s attitude toward N’Keal Harry with the way Tom Brady treated the young wideout last season.
Newton has been extremely supportive of Harry, publicly backing him after his Week 1 fumble and taking an active role in his development. Brady appeared disinterested in helping the 2019 first-round draft pick along after a preseason injury cost him valuable practice time.
Harry was asked about these differing approaches during a video conference Tuesday. He said it’s difficult to compare what he called “two very different situations.”
“I think when it comes to wanting me to succeed, in that regard, I think Tom wanted me to succeed just as much,” Harry said. “But it’s just hard trying to compare. I just feel as a rookie, it was just a lot harder for me to try to grasp the offense, missing half of the season and then just getting thrown in there like that. So it really is hard to compare. But it is helpful having Cam guiding me along everything that’s going on.”
After showing flashes of potential in an uneven rookie training camp, Harry suffered a lower-leg injury in New England’s preseason opener that caused him to miss 10 weeks of practice. He didn’t make his regular-season debut until Week 11 and was inconsistent down the stretch, catching less than half of his targets from Brady (14 of 31, including playoffs).
“At the beginning of the season, I think everyone is trying to kind of find their footing and get used to playing in football games,” Harry said. “We haven’t played a football game in a long time. Last year, at the beginning of the season, all those guys kind of got to get their footing and kind of figured things out. Now, I feel like I’m more of the same playing field when it comes to that.”
All of that missed time most certainly stunted Harry’s development. But Brady’s get-on-my-page-or-get-out-of-my face mindset toward him and fellow rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski — and many young wideouts before them — had a negative effect on the Patriots’ offense as a whole.
Harry has been far from perfect under Newton’s command, but the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks was the most promising stretch of his young NFL career.
Trailing by five, Newton targeted Harry four times on the game’s final drive. Harry caught three of those passes for 42 yards, including a 12-yard pickup to the Seattle 1 with less than 15 seconds remaining.
Harry, who said Newton has been like a “big brother” to him, finished with eight catches on 12 targets for 72 yards on 61 snaps — all career highs. Julian Edelman (eight catches, 179 yards) and Damiere Byrd (six catches, 72 yards) also posted strong receiving numbers in the loss.
The following morning, Newton expressed confidence in New England’s largely unproven receiving corps during an appearance on WEEI’s “Greg Hill Show,” saying, “The answers are in that locker room” when asked whether the team should trade for a wideout.
“It’s good to have trust from our quarterback,” Harry said when asked about Newton’s comments. “At the end of the day, as receivers, we just want to make him as comfortable as possible, and when he drops back he has faith in every single one of us that he can trust us to come down with the ball. It’s really encouraging.”
Thumbnail photo via New England Patriots