FOXBORO -- N'Keal Harry stayed down on the ground for an extra beat or two, his face mask in the turf. Before he started to get to his feet, he slapped the grass with his hands. He was frustrated. That much was clear.
It was a moment that came toward the end of what had been a decidedly up-and-down practice for the first-round rookie receiver Tuesday. Harry heard it from coaches during drills. He didn't always connect with Tom Brady in their first practice together. And when an out-route fell incomplete after he made a diving attempt to snare it, he was visibly bothered.
"Tough catch," he said later, "but I expect myself to make it."
Brady peppered Harry with targets throughout the practice, an indication that the 41-year-old -- who has taken some time to warm up to young receivers in the past -- understands Harry's development could make a drastic impact on the overall success of the Patriots passing game.
There was a slant that fell incomplete early, and a contested fade that nicked Harry's fingertips before hitting the turf. There were completions sprinkled in throughout as well: a corner route mid-way through the session; a pass to the sideline threaded between coverage.
But the misses seemed to bother Harry, which is consistent with the reputation he established at Arizona State. He was a perfectionist of sorts there, and that approach has apparently followed him to New England.
"N'Keal's very competitive," Arizona State receivers coach Charlie Fisher told The Next Pats Podcast earlier this offseason. "He looks to do good. He gets pissed if he doesn't do it good in practice. Like all great players, he wants to do it good. He takes great pride in trying to do whatever it is your trying to teach him, and he tries to do a good job with it."
In an offense that has proven very difficult for young receivers to grasp over the years, Harry may have to strike some sort of balance between beating himself up after practices and finding room for growth in the mistakes he makes.
But in some ways, what we saw from Harry in his first Gillette Stadium workout with Brady is likely part of the reason why the Patriots liked him as much as they did on draft weekend. There was no entitlement in how Harry carried himself Tuesday. No nose-in-the-air, I'm-a-first-rounder-I've-got-this kind of comportment.
Harry treated the first day of minicamp, "teaching camp," like a game. There is a long list of Patriots who've handled practices with similar intensity, who've attacked every rep as if their livelihood depended on it, who've worked out just fine -- including the guy throwing Harry passes this week.
That he didn't secure every football thrown his way should not have been the takeaway for anyone watching Harry closely on Tuesday. It was that he was bothered by the ones he didn't.
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