There are several roster ties between the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears, but none is as noteworthy as N’Keal Harry’s.
A first-round selection by the Patriots in the 2019 NFL Draft, Harry spent three seasons in New England but failed to meet expectations. He struggled with injuries, failed to build a consistent rapport with his quarterbacks, and eventually found himself buried on a depth chart that was rebuilt between 2021 and 2022.
As a consequence, the Patriots pulled the plug on Harry’s tenure in New England. He was traded to the Bears ahead of training camp in exchange for a 2024 seventh-round pick.
Three months later, the 24-year-old is set to make his return to Gillette Stadium. He is not too worried about the narratives surrounding the game, though.
“I’m trying not to get too caught up in it being the Patriots and it being my former team,” Harry recently told the Pioneer Press. “I’m obviously excited, excited to see some of my guys.”
One of the players who had the closest ties to Harry during his three-year stint in New England is fellow wide receiver Jakobi Meyers. The two arrived as part of the same rookie class, with Harry coming in as the 32nd overall pick and Meyers as a rookie free agent.
“I’m excited to see my guy. It’s been a minute. We haven’t talked in a minute. I’ll be happy to see him, definitely,” Meyers told reporters this week.
“We just went through the dog days together. It’s hard to come in and be young here and earn everybody’s trust. We stuck it out, we came in here together. It was a bunch of us, not just me and him, but a bunch of guys who came in every day and pushed each other to be better.”
Whereas Meyers developed into the Patriots’ most reliable pass catcher, Harry failed to adapt to playing in the team’s system. He had his moments, but they were few and far between.
Ultimately, he simply failed to earn the trust of the men throwing him the ball — whether they be Tom Brady, Cam Newton or Mac Jones — and those coaching him from the sidelines. What exactly went wrong, however, was not discussed leading up to the two sides crossing paths again on Monday night.
“Big, talented kid,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “Things didn’t really work out here the way that I think all of us hoped for. Everybody tried, it just didn’t work out. So, I’m sure he’ll be ready to go. I’m sure he’ll play hard.”
Harry himself echoed Belichick’s remarks.
“It could be a lot of different things that led into it,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m not worried about any of that. I’m worried about right now, going forward and helping this team win.”
Harry’s tenure with the Bears was off to a disappointing start. The trade acquisition suffered an ankle injury in training camp and subsequently was placed on injured reserve. He was reactivated off the list earlier this month, but has yet to see any game action.
According to Chicago wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert, however, this should be expected to change against New England.
“We feel like he’s been preparing and he’s earned the right to get some playing time this week,” Tolbert said.
Bears head coach Mike Eberflus also spoke positively about Harry’s rehabilitation process. And, he too sang the excitement-based tune surrounding his return to Foxborough.
“He’s looking good. He’s really looked well. We’re excited where he is physically,” Eberflus said.
“I think it’s exciting. Every time you spend some time at a certain place and you get a chance to go back and play at that same arena and with some guys that you know, that’s an exciting thing.”