OTAs are voluntary, yes. But they’re more “mandatory” than anything for struggling players, younger players, or those still working to get up to speed. So when New England Patriots fans learned wide receiver N’Keal Harry wasn’t at Monday’s opening OTA, it resulted in frustration.
Harry’s unfortunately been nothing but a disappointment with his play on the field and his behavior off of it. He’s all of officially cemented himself as a draft bust (he’s still young, so he could turn his career around elsewhere) and then went as far to request a trade from the Patriots last year despite his horrific lack of production since 2019.
And it’s not like he hasn’t get any playing time. Harry received 45% of the snaps as a rookie coming off an ankle injury; 68% in his “career year” in 2020 (309 yards, 2 TDs in 15 games); and 43% last year even with a pretty stacked wide receiving corps.
But whether he’s dropping passes or failing to get separation, Harry arguably couldn’t have done less with the time he was given. Now, ahead of a contract year, he’s nowhere to be found at OTAs, which, again, are implicitly required for those who need the work.
N’Keal Harry’s fate as a Patriot should be sealed after Monday’s OTA absence
Perhaps there’s something we don’t know here … we’ll admit that. Maybe it was made clear to Harry that the Patriots would find a trade partner for him before training camp. Maybe he’s resting up after last year’s shoulder injury delayed his season debut. Maybe he’s looking to avoid any other potential injuries in non-mandatory situations because the Patriots declined his fifth-year option.
But at face value, with Harry being noted as a “notable absence,” it lends argument to the possibility that he’s simply not there without explanation, which is a bad look for a player fighting for time on the field who will need a new contract after the 2022 season.
It perhaps should’ve come long ago, but this should seal Harry’s fate in New England — if there was no previous discussion about him being absent/why he would be absent, of course.
He’s contributed 57 catches for 598 yards and four touchdowns across 33 career games after being selected in the first round back in 2019. One could argue the Patriots’ system might not be right for him, or that his injuries have stunted his development. Both can certainly be true.
However, Harry’s inability to accomplish the acceptable bare minimum for a player of his caliber (for three years!) and then to not appear at OTAs heading into a contract year with a team that’s desperately attempting to revamp their passing attack very much feels unacceptable from a dedication standpoint.