Ever since the offseason, the New England Patriots have had a revolving door at the wide receiver position. From the likes of Maurice Harris and Dontrelle Inman, to Josh Gordon and Cameron Meredith, to Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown, the team brought in a boatload of players only to see them drop for various reasons one after the other. One of the team’s offseason additions, however, was able to eventually return: N’Keal Harry.
The Patriots originally drafted Harry with the 32nd overall pick in this year’s draft, but had to place him on injured reserve shortly after roster cutdown day: he had hurt his ankle just three snaps (and two catches) into the preseason opener against the Detroit Lions and was unable to participate in practices and exhibition games from that point on. Six weeks after being moved to IR, however, Harry was designated as the team’s first player to come off IR.
While he was not yet eligible to play, seeing the first-rounder practice with his teammates was an encouraging sign. New England then decided to officially activate him to its 53-man roster two weeks later, and even though he did was not on the game day roster against the Baltimore Ravens the writing was on the wall: Harry would make his debut in a Patriots uniform sooner rather than later — maybe even as soon as this week.
“It feels great just getting out there with my team. Just getting better every day with them. Just looking for my role and the way to help my team,” Harry told reporters on Thursday. “It’s been great, just going out there with the mentality [of] just getting better every day. Just going out there, just trying my best to get better and get better at something every day. [...] It’s been great just going out there — just trying to get better every day.”
While it remains to be seen whether or not the 21-year-old will actually be active against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, he did address the media for the first time since the summer. And what became clear during the short session was that Harry has one goal on his mind: getting better and finding a role within an offense that also features veteran wide receivers Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett.
Harry’s development, of course, had to take a backseat to his recovery since August, but the rookie appeared to have a positive attitude about the ankle sprain that has held him out of game action ever since: “I just looked at it as a blessing. I just looked at the positive things in it. God has done so much throughout my life. He’s put stepping stones in certain places. I just looked at it the same way,” he said.
“I don’t have any regrets,” added Harry when asked about whether or not he rushed back onto the field after already hurting his ankle earlier during practice. “I don’t need to show anything. Me going out there and playing hard and playing through stuff, that’s just the type of mentality I have. That’s just the type of mindset I grew up having. It wasn’t me trying to show anything, show toughness or anything. That’s just me.”
Now, the Arizona State product is back and — if the Patriots’ injury reports are to be believed — at full strength again. His focus therefore, is on what lies ahead and what needs to be done to get better as a player: “[I’m] just trying to make sure I’m improving and giving it my all every day.”