N'Keal Harry requested a trade via his agent earlier this summer and is sidelined with a shoulder injury.
But Bill Belichick still expects the wide receiver to be an important member of the 2021 New England Patriots.
"I think N'Keal had a good (training) camp," Belichick told reporters in a press conference Tuesday. "Glad we have him. Think he'll make a big contribution to our team.
"We'll see how it all goes from a time standpoint of when he'll be able to get back on the field, but I know he's working hard and making progress with his rehab. So, we'll keep monitoring that and see how it goes."
Harry had an underwhelming first two seasons in New England after the Patriots took him 32nd overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. The 23-year-old looked excellent in training camp, however, and appeared to be on the right track before exiting the Patriots' second preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a shoulder injury.
Harry's injury resurfaced trade speculation his agent started in early July, when he said in a statement that a "fresh start" was best for both Harry and the team.
But Belichick insisted Tuesday he never talked to Harry's agent and has spoken to the wide receiver directly about his situation.
"I never talked to his agent, all right?" Belichick said. "So, you'd have to talk to his agent; whatever he did or didn't say, I don't even know.
"I'm a coach, N'Keal's a player. I think we have a good player-coach relationship. We've talked. So, whatever somebody else said or did, you should talk to them about that."
With Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers ahead of him on the depth chart and Gunner Olszewski and Matthew Slater likely occupying special teams roles, there still might not be a place for Harry on the 53-man roster. It's still possible the Patriots trade the wideout, and that Belichick is just engaging in some misdirection.
But if New England can't get a good return for Harry, it may make sense to keep him on the roster and see if he can build on his momentum from training camp once he returns from his injury, which was expected to keep him out until around Week 2.