FOXBOROUGH — Cam Newton has N’Keal Harry’s back.
In another sign of how quickly Newton has embraced his leadership role in New England, the quarterback boosted the second-year wide receiver when he was asked what he told Harry after his touchdown drive-killing fumble in Week 1.
Newton’s not about to freeze out one of his top targets because of a single botched play.
"I spoke with N’Keal and let’s just put a lot of things into perspective here. Did he have a good game? Yes, he did. I think that one play overshadowed the production that he did have,'' Newton said Wednesday afternoon.
Newton preferred to accentuate Harry’s positive contributions to the 21-11 victory over the Dolphins.
"He bailed me out on a play, an inaccurate pass that he came down with and got the first down,'' said Newton. “He did pretty good in the run game. He had a couple of contested catches and all of that was kind of for naught because a lot of people just focused on the fumble. And granted, I’ll be the first person to tell you, he knows – or he would be the first person to tell you that he knows that’s unacceptable.”
Harry finished the game with five catches – tied for game-high with teammate Julian Edelman -- on six targets for 39 yards.
“It was just one mistake,” said Newton. “Him still being a young player trying to come into his own, things like that will happen, you just want them to be minimized as much as possible. But he’s making leaps and strides as everyone would expect him to.”
Last week Harry described Newton as a big brother, and the 10-year NFL veteran explained why he is uniquely qualified to be a mentor to his young pass catcher, the Patriots' first-round draft pick in 2019.
"The thing that makes me and N’Keal closer is, I told him my spiel, obviously being in Carolina, I’ve had a N’Keal in my life for as long as my career has existed,'' said Newton, who recently chose “Doughboy” as Harry’s nickname. "Being a high invested draft pick dating back to Kelvin Benjamin to Devin Funchess, me also being young at the time too, and investing in Curtis Samuel, D.J. Moore, Christian McCaffrey, so it’s nothing new to come on a team and you have a young talent at receiver and trying to morph him into the best player he can possibly be.''
Newton said leadership is an ever-evolving process.
“In order to be a great leader, you also have to be a great follower and there’s a lot of guys on this team that I follow and see from afar and just get the little nuggets with how they prepare and just work on a day-to-day basis,” he said. "I’m trying to put in my repertoire of living each and every day.”
One of the reasons Newton is so high on Harry is he sees the receiver’s daily practice habits.
“I know N’Keal is buying in, not only to my theory and methods, but to the team’s as well and plays like that are going to happen,” Newton said. “We just hope it’s the only time it will happen.”
Another thing that has Newton excited is this week’s trip to Seattle for Sunday night’s game against the Seahawks, which he said will break up the monotony of Camp Foxborough.
“We’ve been barricaded for at least a month and half . . . doing everything the same each and every day – getting tested,” he said. “For me, I’ve been trying to learn so much, as much as possible in a short span and it’s no different than anybody else to kind of get out and about is one thing, but it’s still a work trip.”
There is the added uncertainty of the club’s first road trip during the coronavirus pandemic, but Newton isn’t expecting any complications and, like many of teammates, has been very appreciative of the efforts to keep players safe.
“I think the NFL and the New England Patriots have done such a great job with protecting us . . . going over and beyond to help us not only protect ourselves, but people with families as well.”