Patriots

Bill Belichick offers updates on N’Keal Harry before Patriots roster cuts

Belichick hinted that the former first-round receiver will stick with the Patriots Tuesday morning.

N'Keal Harry Patriots
N'Keal Harry. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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Lost in the Patriots quarterback competition this summer is another storyline that fell by the wayside slightly during preseason: N’Keal Harry’s present and future in Foxborough.

After showing out in padded 1-on-1 drills and making a few stellar plays in camp, Harry’s hype train ground to a halt due to a shoulder injury sustained during the Patriots’ second preseason game against the Eagles. To add disappointment to that injury, he dropped a well-thrown deep ball from Mac Jones on the same play, resurfacing questions about his effectiveness at the receiver position.

With final roster cutdowns coming Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, Harry’s status with the team is once again under the microscope. Is he a lock to make the team? Will he go on the PUP list or injured reserve? Could he, like Sony Michel, head to another team in a trade?

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But Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had favorable things to say when asked about the receiver during his Tuesday morning press availability.

“I thought N’Keal had a good camp,” Belichick said. “Glad we have him. Think he’ll make a big contribution to our team. We’ll see how it all goes from a time standpoint of when he’ll be able to get back on the field. But I know he’s working hard and making progress with his rehab. We’ll keep monitoring that and see how it goes.”

On the surface, that could be taken as a sign that Harry remains in the team’s immediate plans, whether he stays on the 53-man roster or returns off one of the injured lists later. The Patriots also just released Kristian Wilkerson, one of Harry’s toughest early competitors for a roster spot at wide receiver.

What’s more, Belichick stiff-armed questions about the trade request Harry’s agent made public before training camp began.

At first, the taciturn head coach simply said he’d keep conversations between himself, Harry and his agent private. But after a follow-up question on the matter, Belichick suggested he never seriously addressed trading the receiver — at least not with his representation.

“I never talked to his agent, so you’d have to ask his agent whatever he did or didn’t say. I don’t even know,” he said. “I’m a coach. N’Keal’s a player. We have a good player-coach relationship. We’ve talked. Whatever someone else said or did or whatever, you should talk to them about that.”

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That’s not to say a trade or something surprising can’t still happen before the season begins or even before the week is out. But for now, it appears Harry will stay put and have another chance to prove himself with the Patriots.

Belichick also declined to give any new updates on who would start at quarterback for the Patriots Week 1 against Miami. At this time, Cam Newton remains the presumed starter, though Mac Jones has won a lot of praise for his play in training camp and is a strong contender to take the job from the incumbent.

But while he didn’t go into specifics about the quarterback battle, Belichick again offered a positive assessment of Newton’s progress compared to his rocky preparation for the 2020 season.

“Last year was totally different, so I feel like everybody’s way ahead of where they were last year,” the coach said. “Certainly, [Cam] started at a higher point than what he did last year, so definitely moving in the right direction.”

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