Add wide receiver N’Keal Harry to the list of Patriots endorsing quarterback Cam Newton’s return to the team next season.
“I would absolutely love to have Cam back,” Harry said this week via telephone. “He helped me so much throughout the season, not only on the field with football stuff but with off-the-field stuff, just more about being a professional, about life. He really helped me in all aspects of life last year, so I really do appreciate him for that.
“At the same time, he was a very fun person to play with. I would love to have him back and be able to play with him again.”
Earlier this offseason, cocaptain Devin McCourty also signed off on bringing back Newton, who is set to become a free agent when the new NFL year begins March 17.
Newton himself has seemed open to re-signing with the Patriots as well.
“It was just a great overall vibe every day,” Harry said. “Every day, Cam brought energy and just a certain vibe to the locker room and to the field.”
Despite New England’s offensive struggles, Newton and Harry developed a close relationship in their first year as teammates. Newton consistently defended Harry amid questions about the strength of the receiving corps.
Harry, who was drafted 32nd overall in 2019, caught 33 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games last season. He logged the best game of his season (and career) in Week 2, when he caught eight passes on 12 targets for 72 yards against the Seattle Seahawks.
During the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7, Harry suffered a concussion that sidelined him for the following two weeks. Veteran Julian Edelman also was out after undergoing a knee procedure, giving way to the emergence of Jakobi Meyers.
The Patriots’ wide receiver room could look a bit different with free agency and the draft on the horizon, but Harry, Edelman, Meyers, and Gunner Olszewski are all under contract for the upcoming season. Damiere Byrd and Donte Moncrief are set to become unrestricted free agents.
Harry, lauded predraft for his catch radius and ability to create separation, didn’t name any specific areas of focus for this offseason.
“I feel like I can improve in every aspect,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been working on.”
Created by Monarc, a Dallas-based sports robotic company, the Seeker is essentially an automated, advanced JUGS machine, simulating passes from a quarterback.
In his backyard, Harry uses the machine for stationary repetitions or quick-cut work. When at a local football field, he’s able to polish his route-running.
Harry emphasized the importance of crisp routes, and can dictate the speed, arc, and distance of the ball by programming the machine.
“I’ve been running every route — slants, fades, outs, ins, basically everything, curls,” Harry said. “I can do everything with the machine.”
His favorite option right now is the long ball, something that the Patriots would certainly welcome after ranking last in the league with just one reception over 50 yards last season. The team also tied for 29th in receptions over 20 yards with 38.
Harry called the machine “a game-changer” for him because of its accuracy and independence. He’ll typically log catches before and after his daily strength and conditioning workouts, and then take the machine to a field twice a week.
When he’s not working out, Harry has been relaxing with his family and playing video games. He and his close friends are also planning on opening a gym in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he has been spending most of his offseason.
Does he feel any pressure heading into Year 3?
“No,” Harry said. “To be honest, I’m just having fun with it and enjoying the game.”
As for his goals for next season?
“I just want to be able to play to the expectation that I put on myself,” he said. “And at the end of the day, I just want to win. That’s all I really want.”
And what would he say to those doubting him after his first two NFL seasons?
“I don’t have anything to say to them,” Harry said. “I do this for the people that believe in me, the people that have always supported me. I do this to perform to my own expectations.
“Nobody’s expectations are going to surpass the expectations I have for myself. To the naysayers, I don’t really have anything to say. I’m not worried about them. I’m pretty unfazed by them.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at email@example.com.