Bears’ N’Keal Harry focusing on opportunity — not vindication — vs. Patriots

N’Keal Harry didn’t see Kevin White’s 64-yard catch for the Saints against the Cardinals on Thursday night.

“But I saw his stat line,” the Bears wide receiver said.

White’s big play may or may 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, like White a former first-round draft 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 re-start his own NFL career on Monday night against the Patriots, the team that gave up on him and traded him for a 2024 seventh-round draft pick.

“I have a chip on my shoulder,” was the very first thing Harry said in his introductory press conference. But vindication is not Harry’s motivation Monday night. He doesn’t want revenge. He wants an opportunity — to prove himself right more than 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, though, is one of the most challenging places for him to prove that. 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 career.

This season is a perfect example — with yet another Bears offense that looks like 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 wide receivers who had not played with Justin Fields prior to this season.

Even Darnell Mooney –the best thing this offense had going for it –has struggled in this offense. 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 last week — with a costly bobble –for the opposite reason.

“His route was almost too good,” wide 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 N’Keal 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 — a cameo (five snaps) in the Patriots’ playoff loss to the Bills. And he hasn’t played much at all since injuring his ankle on Aug. 6.

But Harry has one thing going for him the others don’t. At 6-4 and 225 pounds 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.”

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