LAKE FOREST – N’Keal Harry worked out on the morning of July 12. There was more work to do later, but he had just enough time for a quick nap, so he took advantage of it.
Soon, he was rudely awakened when his manager barged in. Harry had been traded from the Patriots to the Bears.
“I jumped up out of bed,” Harry said. “I was just excited, man, that was just my initial feeling.”
General manager Ryan Poles and the Bears traded a 2024 seventh-round draft pick for the Patriots receiver, who was a first-round draft pick only three years ago. New England took Harry with the 32nd overall pick in 2019 after a dominant college career at Arizona State.
In three seasons in New England, Harry never quite lived up to the first-round billing. He has caught only 57 passes for 598 yards and four touchdowns in his NFL career. Last season he started only four games.
It was pretty well documented that Harry requested a trade last summer. A year later, his request was finally granted. He comes to Chicago looking for a fresh start with a new team. The Bears can certainly provide that. The wide receiver position is wide open, with Darnell Mooney likely the only lock to be a starter.
“I just feel like it is a good fit for me,” Harry said. “Even when I came into the building, I just felt a lot of good vibes. Everybody here is excited.”
The first thing anyone notices upon meeting Harry is his size. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he doesn’t look like a wide receiver. That body has allowed him to excel as a blocker from the receiver position.
It also provides some much-needed length to contrast with smaller receivers like Mooney and Byron Pringle. There’s tantalizing possibilities with a frame like that.
“You read about a guy, right, and you’re in the draft process and all that stuff, but when he gets in front of you you’re like, ‘Whoa, he’s a big thick dude,’” Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said. “I mean he’s an impressive guy, but I’m even more impressed with like his mentality, how he came in here. He came in here with a purpose.”
Harry certainly sounds eager to prove himself. He’s exactly the type of low-risk, high-reward player that Poles has brought in all across the roster. He’s only 24 years old. There’s time to unlock the player who had back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons in college before declaring for the draft after his junior season. Oddly, at 24, Harry – a three-year veteran – is younger than Bears rookie third-round draft pick Velus Jones Jr.
Jones was a redshirt sophomore at USC in 2018 when Harry made a ridiculous one-handed catch against the Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Jones remembers seeing that catch from the sideline.
“He’s like way more polished than he was back then,” Jones said. “He’s really impressive. The way he blocks, the way he run his routes and stuff, his hand-eye coordination. He’s a special guy.”
Jones likened Harry to a Greek god.
“I would say like a Hercules,” he joked.
When the Bears traded for Harry, head coach Matt Eberflus called him and told him this is a clean slate. With a nearly clean slate for the team at the receiver position, someone is going to have to step up and make plays.
“This is a golden opportunity for all of us [at wide receiver],” Harry said. “It’s just who’s going to grab it. I just feel like for me to capitalize off this, I just have to show how dominant I am and I just need to be that big, strong wide receiver.”
Taking attendance: Center Lucas Patrick has a right hand injury and will be out for a while, Eberflus said after practice Friday. Patrick left Thursday’s practice with the injury and was not present Friday.
Second-year tackle Teven Jenkins was absent for his second day in a row. Eberflus said Jenkins “is working through something with the trainers.” He declined to specify if Jenkins was dealing with an injury or an illness. Jenkins practiced on the first day of training camp Wednesday, but hasn’t been on the practice field since.
Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. missed his second straight day of practice with an undisclosed injury. Guard Cody Whitehair was present but not a full participant Friday.
Eberflus said he will not elaborate much on injuries during training camp.
“If you don’t have to disclose injuries right now, which you do during the season, to me, why would you?” Eberflus said.