FOXBORO, Mass. — When the Patriots host the Bears on Monday, Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry will see each other in a reunion loaded with context.
Both receivers arrived in New England in 2019 — Meyers as an undrafted free agent; Harry as a first-round pick — looking to earn roles on the Tom Brady-led offense. However, few people are aware of how Meyers found motivation in the Patriots’ drafting of Harry.
“I’m going to go in there and show them I could play with a first-rounder,” Meyers said last year during a conversation with former teammate Kyle Van Noy.
To say Meyers’ and Harry’s Patriots careers went in opposite directions would be a huge understatement.
Meyers, after a largely uneventful rookie season, has become a focal point of the Patriots offense and one of the most underrated receivers in the NFL. Harry also struggled his first season, but never recovered (57 catches over three campaigns), establishing himself as one of the top busts of the Bill Belichick era. He requested a trade in July of 2021 and was moved to Chicago roughly a year later.
So, it was mission accomplished for Meyers. Nevertheless, the fourth-year pro is looking forward to catching up with a player whom he’s always supported and spoken highly of, as Harry fittingly is expected to make his Bears debut Monday night at Gillette Stadium.
“I’m excited to see my guy,” Meyers said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s been a minute. We ain’t talked in a minute. I’ll be happy to see him. Definitely.”
Life in Foxboro can be tough for rookies. Enduring the challenges of starting an NFL career with the Patriots is something Meyers and Harry both can relate to.
“We just went through the dog days together,” Meyers said. “It’s hard to come in and be young here and earn everybody’s trust. We stuck it out, we came in here together. It was a bunch of us, not just me and him, but a bunch of guys who came in every day and pushed each other to be better.”
Meyers recently appeared on a former NC State teammate’s Twitch stream, during which he revealed the immense impact that Cam Newton had on his career during the 2020 season.
“Not too many people know this, man, but Cam really kinda saved my career,” Meyers said. ” … When Cam first got there — that was my second year in the league, and it was still at a point, when the season first started, I wasn’t playing. They would take me to games, they would sit me. So, I wouldn’t even sit on the sideline. I would up in the box — a healthy scratch. And that’s really not the best thing to be in the NFL. …
“Probably like the sixth or seventh game of the season, my mood had completely changed. I wasn’t talking. I had headphones on every day in the building. I was really going through it. (Newton) just came to me and was like, ‘I can see it, man, I can see it. You’re a good player but you’re just in your own head right now. Just keep going, know what I mean? When your number’s called, you’ll be all right.’ But I was down. He came and … really lifted me up. And then I finally got my chance, he was giving me the ball. He was feeding me. Stayed positive. Whenever he went training, he’d take me with him.”
Publicly, Newton also was one of Harry’s top supporters. He nicknamed the embattled receiver “Doughboy” and always praised Harry for his work on the practice field.
But was Newton as supportive of Harry behind the scenes as he was of Meyers?
“I would definitely say so,” Meyers said Thursday. “I think (Newton) did a really good job of just making guys feel included.”
Meyers added: “One thing I can say about Cam as a teammate, I feel like he really tried to treat everybody as a member of the team. He was real big on the nicknames and the handshakes, and just the energy as a person.”
It remains to be seen what role, if any, Harry will have in Monday’s game. If anyone knows how to slow down the Arizona State product, it’s the Patriots coaching staff.
Plus, Belichick surely will do everything he can to ensure a fired-up Harry doesn’t make a statement against his former head coach.
As for Meyers, there’s a great chance he continues doing his thing: silently shredding opposing defenses and playing a key role in a Patriots win.