Some news and notes for this morning:
1) Tuesday’s news of N’Keal Harry’s agent coming out and formally requesting a trade was a surprise, although the premise itself obviously isn’t.
Harry has been subject to trade rumors this offseason and was rumored to be potentially moved right around the time of the draft. Nothing ever materialized and Harry has remained on the roster up to this point.
His situation is interesting, to say the least. The former Arizona State receiver hasn’t quite lived up to his first-round potential to this point, with injuries hampering him during his rookie season. He also struggled at times that year to get on the same page with then-quarterback, Tom Brady.
Harry reportedly spent time last offseason working with a footwork coach, Rischad Whitfield, who blasted Cam Newton late last season in an article with USA TODAY as the reason for Harry not having a more successful sophomore season.
“We’ve got a new quarterback. We’ve got to put some of that (expletive) on Cam,” Whitfield said. “Cam hasn’t been the most accurate this year. Like if (N’Keal) had Tom Brady, Tom Brady would’ve fed him. But we’re back there with Cam and Cam’s getting acclimated to the offense, too.”
Whitfield added: “It’s a big deal coming from Tom Brady to Cam Newton. … That’s one of Cam Newton’s biggest issues is mechanics.”
That report seemed to fracture things between Harry and Newton, with the number of targets seemingly dropping following that episode and Harry finished 2020 with just 33 receptions for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
Heading into this year, Harry clearly still isn’t happy with where things are, which sparked his agent, Jamal Tooson, to release a statement asking for a fresh start for his client.
“For the past several months, I have been working in cooperation with the Patriots behind the scenes to put a plan in place to allow N’Keal to thrive in New England,” wrote Tooson via ESPN. “Through two seasons, he has 86 targets, which obviously hasn’t met the expectations the Patriots and N’Keal had when they drafted a dominant downfield threat who was virtually unstoppable at the point of attack in college. Following numerous conversations with the Patriots, I believe it’s time for a fresh start and best for both parties if N’Keal moves on before the start of training camp. That is why I have informed the Patriots today I am formally requesting a trade on behalf of my client,” agent Jamal Tooson said in the statement.
“N’Keal understands a key ingredient to production is opportunity. He will continue to work hard to develop and refine his craft after missing a large portion of his rookie year to injury. His draft-day expectations for his NFL career have not changed. We are confident success is just around the corner for him and will aggressively pursue it.”
Whether or not the Patriots will give in to his demands remains to be seen. Given the current state of the wide receiving group, Harry may have seen the writing on the wall where he might have been on the outside looking in heading into training camp, which could be the reason he’s asking out now.
The reports from media members who have been watching him also haven’t exactly been positive. More than one has said that he still doesn’t look fluid out there, with the third-year receiver still laboring through his routes and looking “choppy”. Film review from Pro Football Focus found that he struggled to get separation last season, which remained an issue from his rookie year.
NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran brought up an interesting point on WEEI during a previous appearance with Mike Mutnansky where he talked about a moment that he believes defined Harry’s time in New England.
“I watched him in Tennessee when the Patriots had joint practices down there,” said Curran. “After he finished lifting, he walked out on the field, the teams are practicing on three fields, two teams, and I’m watching N’Keal Harry first-round wide receiver barefoot walking around, trying to find someplace to bide his time, tossing a ball up in the air. Meanwhile, the ones are going full bore with Tom Brady throwing to Braxton Berrios and Danny Etling and whatever other scrabini was down there against the ones of the Tennessee Titans. And you have your first-round wide receiver pick, wandering barefoot looking for something to do.”
Needless to say, a lot of these issues appear to be self-inflicted and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. Harry doesn’t have any leverage, so if the right deal isn’t out there, the likelihood of him getting his wish probably isn’t good. Whether or not Belichick will willingly part ways with a player he reportedly liked will be the other side of this story, so this definitely adds another layer to what’s already been an interesting offseason.
2) Former Patriots receiver Chris Hogan is enjoying his transition to playing professional lacrosse, with Hogan telling Mike Reiss that his final two years of his NFL career were tough as he battled injuries, which he said was hard on his family.
Given what was already a solid career for the former receiver, Hogan said he had nothing else to prove and he just felt like making a change was the best thing for himself and his family.
“I spent the last two years on [injured reserve], which sucked. It’s hard on me. It’s hard on my family. And I felt like I had accomplished more than I ever could have dreamed of accomplishing in the NFL,” said Hogan.
“I was at a point in my personal life where I felt like it was time for me to be around my kids and wife [Ashley]. She’s just beginning her career as a doctor, and it was my time to help her fulfill her dreams.”
One of the things Hogan pointed out that’s made this such a good move for him is that this league doesn’t see him travel very often and that he would be home far more than he would have as an NFL player.
“I knew the lacrosse thing was not something that would take me away from my family,” said Hogan. “I’d be home during the week. Maybe traveling here and there, but I could be a dad, a husband, and not spend months away from them at a time and drag them all over the place.”
It’s been a rough start for Hogan’s team, the Cannons, who are 1-4 thus far. But he’s already had a little excitement, with the former receiver having recently been acquired by the Whipsnakes in a trade on Tuesday, who he apparently impressed during a previous meeting.
Best of luck to Hogan, who definitely seems to be enjoying his life after his time in the NFL.
Jones is officially under contract with the Patriots.
3) Some other good news this week after the Patriots reportedly now officially have rookie quarterback Mac Jones under contract.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported on Tuesday that Jones has agreed to terms with the club on a four-year, $15.6-million deal that is fully guaranteed and includes an $8.7 signing bonus.
The 22-year old has had an impressive start to his rookie campaign, looking sharp and showing tremendous accuracy for much of the spring practices.
The overall belief is that the starting role is Newton’s to lose, although Newton struggled at times during the spring sessions before finishing with his best practice on a day where Jones wasn’t his normal pinpoint accurate self during the club’s final session.
That final showing has likely been a motivating factor for the rookie, who strives for perfection and has been working hard from the time he arrived. Fortunately, at least now, he’s got the financial aspect of things out of the way as he continues preparing for what should be an interesting battle between he and Newton heading into the 2021 regular season.
4) Former Patriots punter Lee Johnson talked recently about his time in New England, including a funny story about how Tom Brady’s mention of him in 2018 surprised him.
Brady, during a November press conference that year, revealed that when he first arrived as a rookie, the option to keep the same number he had in college (10) wasn’t really an option because Johnson was wearing it.
The tale of the 12.
Brady explains the origin of his jersey number. pic.twitter.com/RjvFD4Noyg
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 2, 2018
“Wasn’t really my choice,” said Brady of his number. “I was 10 in college and when I got here, Lee Johnson was 10. So whatever number was on my locker, which was 12, that’s the one that [then-Patriots Equipment Manager] Don Brocher gave me, so I wore that my first year and then we released Lee and I thought about going back to 10, but I just stuck with 12.”
Brocher passed away from leukemia back in 2013. At the time of his passing, he had been the longest-tenured employee in franchise history.
But Brocher was the person who originally handed Brady the number he’s made so well known today, which is kind of a cool wrinkle to that story. As for Johnson, he said that Brady’s mention of him during that 2018 press conference put him back in the limelight.
“Once he [said that], it was as if I never played football,” Johnson said on Monday’s episode of the Pick Six podcast via CBSSports.com. “I was a bigger celebrity from that than from any of my 18 years as a player.”
Johnson did go on to say that had Brady asked, he would have definitely handed the number over to him.
“I don’t recall him ever talking to me or reaching out to me,” Johnson said. “Had he reached out to me, I would have given him that number in a heartbeat.”
5) Following up on a past mention, it sounds like Tampa Bay Buccaneers player Cameron Kinley will get to delay his military service to pursue his NFL career after all.
According to the Huffington Post, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday that the U.S. military will allow the Naval Academy graduate to chase his dream of playing in the NFL.
President Joe Biden also even commented on the situation, saying he was “pleased” by Austin’s decision, adding, “I am confident that Cameron will represent the Navy well in the NFL, just as he did as a standout athlete and class president at the Naval Academy.”
The undrafted defensive back signed with the Buccaneers and impressed enough that he’ll now have an opportunity to compete for a spot in Tampa Bay’s defense.
In the meantime, Austin said that when the time comes, “We look forward to welcoming him back inside the ranks as a naval officer.”
As for Kinley, he was grateful for the decision and he’s looking forward to taking advantage of this opportunity.
“I am extremely appreciative of Secretary Austin’s decision and I am excited to represent our fine military in the National Football League,” he said via Twitter. “This past month has been very challenging and I am thankful for everyone who has supported me in any way.”
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Cameron Kinley Chris Hogan Don Brocher Lee Johnson N'Keal Harry New England Patriots Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tom Brady