What an interview.
Cam Newton’s epic sitdown with I Am Athlete, an unscripted weekly show hosted by former NFL players Chad Johnson, Fred Taylor and Brandon Marshall, yielded memorable moments, including an honest take on embattled teammate and 2019 first-round pick, N’Keal Harry.
The IAA hosts asked the soon-to-be free-agent quarterback of the New England Patriots about his subpar receiver group on the session. As usual, Newton had his guys’ back. However, he did say that he believes Harry, whom he affectionately refers to as “Doughboy,” had been “battered” in his rookie season and into his sophomore campaign in 2020.
As you’ll see in the video below, Newton points to his head when he makes the “battered” reference, which implies Harry was perhaps emotionally impacted by the expectations and the team’s method of holding players accountable.
The section begins at the 18:50 mark.
Is N’Keal Harry Perceived as Fragile, and Did Tom Brady Contribute to Breaking Him?
Much has been made of former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s alleged issues with Harry as a rookie. Brady refusing to throw Harry the ball in 2019 and “refusing to let Harry grow,” per former Patriots tight end and WEEI personality Christian Fauria, are among the most commonly mentioned problems.
Harry dispelled some of the negativity associated with Brady’s interactions with him when he said his former teammate “wanted me to succeed.“
Brady even commented on one of Harry’s Instagram posts last February with some motivational words.
Tom Brady predicts a big year for N’Keal Harry. pic.twitter.com/GeAc4oCn2y
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) February 28, 2020
That doesn’t sound like a guy who is out to hinder someone’s progress. It would be silly to think that was Brady’s intention. However, every player is different and you cannot motivate everyone with the same tactics.
Perhaps a mixture of early struggles, being admonished by someone of Brady’s stature and the pressure of producing for one of the most successful franchises in sports got the best of Harry. At least two-thirds of that scenario is a part of the “Patriot Way.”
Based on what we saw in 2020, Harry looked even less like a player worthy of being selected in the first round than he did as a rookie.
That was especially troubling considering other wide receivers in his class, such as the Seattle Seahawks’ DK Metcalf and A.J. Brown of the Tennessee Titans were performing at a much higher level – despite not being first-round selections.
The fact that Newton, a guy who has been in Harry’s corner from day one, would see him as battered is telling.
Who Will Be a Member of the Patriots’ Roster in 2021, Newton or Harry?
That’s a tough question to answer.
It is beginning to look as though Newton has a better chance to return than was initially believed. There is something to the thought that he could have performed better with a complete training camp, no COVID-19 restrictions and a more dangerous set of weapons in the passing game.
Because there aren’t many options available without parting ways with tons of assets, and because the Patriots aren’t exactly a free-agent attraction – especially without Newton – there is a clear path to the 2015 NFL MVP returning.
Harry is under contract, but no one would be surprised if he was released. He has missed 11 games in his two NFL seasons and has just 45 receptions and four touchdowns in his career.
At this point, it’s a smart bet to say both will return. However, expect Newton to compete for the starting job and for the Patriots to bring in weapons at receiver that could push Harry down on the depth chart or off the roster entirely by the time the season starts.
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