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What Bills coach Sean McDermott learned about Cam Newton in six seasons in Carolina

Sean McDermott spent hundreds of practices scheming against Cam Newton during six seasons as the Panthers' defensive coordinator.
Sean McDermott spent hundreds of practices scheming against Cam Newton during six seasons as the Panthers' defensive coordinator.Elsa/Getty

FOXBOROUGH — Few coaches know Cam Newton better than the Bills' Sean McDermott.

The two spent the first six seasons of Newton’s career together in Carolina (where McDermott served as defensive coordinator) before McDermott shuffled off to Buffalo.

If McDermott, who spent hundreds of practices scheming against Newton, has spotted something affecting Newton’s recent performances, he isn’t letting on.

"He’s a good player, we have a lot of respect for him, and he’s a former MVP of the league for a reason,'' McDermott said Wednesday when asked if he’s identified anything that has led to Newton’s recent struggles. "We know full well what he’s capable of.''


McDermott recalled hearing the news that Newton was joining the Patriots and though he may not have loved the idea of facing him twice a year, he believed it was a logical move for both sides.

"I thought it would be a good marriage,'' McDermott said. "Cam has been to the promised land in terms of what we can accomplish in this business and in terms of his level of play. With the coaching staff they have there, I figured it would be a very good marriage.''

When asked about the challenges Newton and the Patriots present, McDermott said it starts with the decision-makers.

"They’re well-coached, starting with Josh McDaniels. I have a lot of respect for Josh and what he’s done over the years and his body of work,'' said McDermott. "They’ve shown an ability to run the ball, they’ve shown an ability to throw the ball. Certainly, Cam’s been involved in both. Cam’s a dynamic player … he gets the ball to his weapons. So, they’re a challenge to handle because of all the different things they do in the screen game and the gadgets, as well.''

Harry misses practice

N’Keal Harry missed practice as he goes through the concussion protocol after the second-year receiver was dangerously rocked by 49ers defender Tarvarius Moore on Sunday.


The NFL has yet to comment on any possible discipline for Moore, who had Harry lined up and launched a helmet-to-helmet hit that violently snapped Harry’s head back before the receiver crumpled to the turf.

N’Keal Harry, seen here in a recent loss to Denver, missed Wednesday's practice.
N’Keal Harry, seen here in a recent loss to Denver, missed Wednesday's practice.Matthew J. Lee/Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Harry woozily walked off the field to the blue medical tent and eventually to the locker room. He’s likely out for Sunday and possibly more depending on how he responds in the protocol.

Moore wasn’t flagged on the play, despite a side judge — one of seven officials on the field — being less than 10 feet away. Clearly Moore should have been penalized for unnecessary roughness, and a possible targeting ejection, especially at a time when player safety is at the forefront of league discussions.

Upon further review of the tape, this wasn’t a bang-bang play or a case where Harry ducked his head, leading to an unfortunate hit. Moore is sitting in coverage and charges at Harry, delivering the brutal helmet-first hit just as the ball arrives.

According to the NFL fine structure, “Use of the helmet/spearing/launching” is a $20,000 fine for first-time offenders. If it’s determined Moore should have been ejected, he could be subject to a suspension, as well.

Harry has started every game this season and is tied for second on the team with 19 receptions.

Feeling better

The news was better for Joe Thuney and Justin Herron, both of whom left Sunday’s game because of ankle injuries. The two practiced away from the rest of the offensive linemen during the portion of individual drills media were allowed to observe and were listed as limited.


Offensive lineman James Ferentz (COVID-19 reserve list) and core special teamer Cody Davis (injured reserve) returned to practice.

Defensive tackle Carl Davis (concussion), and defensive end Rashod Berry and tight end Jake Burt, both on the practice squad, were absent from the sweats-and-shells session, held in a steady drizzle on the upper training camp fields. Later in the day, Burt, a Boston College product, was placed on injured reserve.

Stephon Gilmore was among those healthy enough to practice Wednesday.
Stephon Gilmore was among those healthy enough to practice Wednesday.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

In addition to Thuney and Herron, the Patriots had six others listed as limited, including new additions Damien Harris (ankle), John Simon (shoulder), and Lawrence Guy (ankle).

Julian Edelman (knee), Shaq Mason (calf), and Kyle Dugger (ankle) are holdovers from last week.

For the Bills, receiver John Brown (knee) returned to practice after missing last week’s game because of a knee injury. while Micah Hyde, one of the more versatile safeties in the league, did not practice because of a concussion.

Moving forward

Adrian Phillips said practice was brisk as the Patriots looked to wash the “bad taste in our mouth” left by the “unacceptable” lopsided loss to the 49ers.

According to Phillips, the focus is on improving, not dwelling.

"What happened last week happened last week and we know we’re not that team, so we’re just back to working and being the best player that we can be,'' he said. "The tempo was picked up because we know what we’re able to do as a team, specifically as a defensive unit and we just [put the] pedal to the floor.''


'Nothing’ to rumors

Bill Belichick said he “knows nothing about” the rumors that All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore is on the trading block. The rumors were fueled by the news that a Foxborough home listed in the name of Gilmore’s wife, Gabrielle, is on the market … James White reported his mother, Lisa, “is doing better” after being injured in the car accident that claimed White’s father, Tyrone, last month. "She’s progressing physically,'' White said. "Obviously a lot going on in her mind. I’m trying to be there for her, let her see her grandkids on FaceTime, get her mind off things a little bit.'' … Count Devin McCourty among those who will miss the atmosphere created by the Bills Mafia with no tailgating or fans in the stands on Sunday. "No doubt about it. Even though it’s against you, it’s an awesome football environment,'' said McCourty, noting that Buffalo fans are "all-in from 9 a.m.'' … The team officially placed linebacker Brandon Copeland on injured reserve because of a torn pectoral muscle suffered against San Francisco.

Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.