N’Keal Harry is the mystery who could decide Patriots’ season

The Patriots have had a bizarre year at the receiver position.

That is why Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been peppered with questions about the status of rookie receiver N’Keal Harry, who has yet to get on the field this season. Harry was activated off of injured reserve the Saturday before the Patriots’ loss to the Ravens, a game he was surprisingly inactive for.

“Good, we’ll see how it goes, relative to the [Philadelphia] game. N’Keal’s practicing well, so those are good things,” Belichick told WEEI on Monday.

Since the start of the season, the Patriots have released Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon, and acquired Mohamed Sanu from the Falcons. Brown’s release, tied to sexual assault accusations and an ongoing NFL investigation, has been well-chronicled. Gordon’s has been a bit of a mystery, given how the franchise has supported him in the past and now that he thrived in his debut with the Seahawks.

Harry is the most likely option to add to an offense with the defense uncharacteristically carrying the 8-1 team this season.

“[Harry] continues to make progress, works hard, and each week is an opportunity that we’re trying to add more in terms of the things he can do, the things he’s comfortable doing, the things we’re comfortable with him doing within our offense,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday.

N'Keal Harry at Patriots practice
N’Keal Harry at Patriots practiceBoston Globe via Getty Images

“I think it’s all positive. Everybody’s working hard for the same goal, which is to have him contribute and help us win games moving forward. Nothing other than that to add to it.”

Harry was taken with the 32nd pick of the first round of the NFL draft and is considered a potential steal. However, on his third snap — and second catch — of the preseason, the former Arizona State star limped off the field. A month later, he was placed on injured reserve.

“That’s the NFL. You have to be comfortable when it’s uncomfortable,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said this week. “He’s OK with that. He’s like any good player: When the bright lights come on, he doesn’t run to the shade. He runs to the middle of the arena, and says, ‘C’mon, I want to compete.’ That doesn’t mean he’s going to win every time, but you want a guy that has that mindset. You want to play with guys like that.”

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