Bears’ N’Keal Harry focusing on opportunity — not vindication — vs. Patriots
The chip on his shoulder is more about proving himself right than the Patriots wrong after they traded him to the Bears for a 2024 seventh-round draft pick. “It’s just about the way I know I can play. Because I know I can play at a high level.”
Bears receiver N’Keal Harry didn’t see Kevin White’s 64-yard catch for the Saints on Thursday against the Cardinals.
‘‘But I saw his stat line,’’ Harry said.
White’s big play might or might not be the start of something for the former Bears first-round draft pick. But just the one play was a reminder that if you have talent and hang in there, anything can happen. And Harry, also a former first-round pick, is aware of the significance.
‘‘Absolutely,’’ he said. ‘‘I watched [White] in college. I watched him coming out. So I know all about him.’’
Harry will get a long-awaited opportunity to restart his own NFL career Monday against the Patriots, the team that gave up on him and traded him to the Bears this summer for a seventh-round draft pick in 2024.
‘‘I have a chip on my shoulder’’ was the first thing Harry said in his introductory news conference. But vindication isn’t Harry’s motivation Monday. He doesn’t want revenge; he wants an opportunity to prove himself right more than to prove the Patriots wrong.
‘‘It’s more about me,’’ Harry said. ‘‘I expect a lot out of myself. I know the way I can play. I know what I can bring to a team. So it’s just about [playing] the way I know I can play. Because I know I can play at a high level.’’
Chicago, however, is one of the most challenging places for him to prove that. Former Bears receiver Muhsin Muhammad was overstating it when he said, ‘‘Chicago is where receivers go to die.’’ But Chicago is definitely not the place where receivers go to jump-start their careers.
This season is a perfect example, with yet another Bears offense that looks as though it’s being put together with instructions from IKEA. A first-year coordinator. A second-year quarterback. A pieced-together offensive line still in flux in Week 7. Five of six receivers who hadn’t played with quarterback Justin Fields before this season.
Even Darnell Mooney — the best thing this offense had going for it — has struggled this season. He missed a chance at a touchdown against the Giants when he was open but ran the wrong route. He missed a chance at a touchdown against the Commanders — with a costly bobble — for the opposite reason.
‘‘His route was almost too good,’’ receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said. ‘‘It’s a quick in/back out, and he, like, killed the [defender] going in and left him behind. He had to fight to get back out, which he did and . . . he tried to make a play on the ball, bobbled it, caught it a second time. If he catches it the first time . . . we win the game. It didn’t happen that way.’’
This is the kind of muck Harry has to rise above while trying to get his own stuff together. Even doing things right can lead to failure.
The odds are against him. It’s the Bears, after all. And Harry hasn’t played any real football since Jan. 15, when he made a cameo (five snaps) in the Patriots’ playoff loss to the Bills. And he hasn’t played much at all since injuring his ankle Aug. 6.
But Harry has one thing going for him the others don’t: At 6-4 and 225 pounds and blessed with first-round athleticism, he can make himself open.
‘‘He’s more physical than I thought,’’ Tolbert said. ‘‘But don’t sleep on [his] wide-receiver skills. He can catch the ball. He can make plays on the ball. He has an added advantage because of his size.’’
Harry is counting on it.
‘‘I just want to be the player I know I always have been,’’ he said. ‘‘The type of guy that when a quarterback gets in a situation, he can throw it up and I can go get it. I can show my physicality, running with the ball, [doing] everything I grew up knowing I can do.’’