Patriots

Harry's trainer clarifies controversial Newton comments

Patriots

N'Keal Harry's trainer raised a few eyebrows Wednesday.

While assessing the New England Patriots wide receiver's play this season, Rischad Whitfield -- aka "The Footwork King" on Twitter -- suggested that part of Harry's struggles may be tied to his transition from Tom Brady in year one to Cam Newton in year two.

"We’ve got a new quarterback. We’ve got to put some of that (expletive) on Cam,” Whitfield told Henry McKenna of USA TODAY's Patriots Wire. "Cam hasn’t been the most accurate this year. Like if (N’Keal) had Tom Brady, Tom Brady would’ve fed him. But we’re back there with Cam and Cam’s getting acclimated to the offense, too."

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Whitfield claimed he was misquoted, however, writing on Twitter that he'd "never blame another man for someone’s lack of production."

Later Wednesday night, Whitfield joined WEEI's "Mut at Night" radio show to further address what he told McKenna.

"The thing about me is, any athlete that I train, would never put the blame or lack of productivity on somebody else," Whitfield said, via WEEI.com. "I would never do that. That is not who I am. I am not wired that way.

 

"He took a lot of stuff I said and misquoted it big-time. I wish he would tell you all the questions he would ask me. It was weird because I figured this dude was picking at something. It was really weird. But, you know what, the kid played with Tom Brady last year and he's playing with Cam Newton this year. There was no install this offseason. N'Keal went straight from offseason training to training camp down in New England so there wasn't much time for him and Cam to build chemistry. That's all I said."

Harry has had a disappointing second season to date, with just 29 catches on 49 targets for 277 yards and two touchdowns. Those poor stats are partially a product of New England's offensive approach under Newton: Patriots wide receivers and tight ends have been targeted on just 68.7% of the team's pass attempts this season, the lowest total in the AFC.

Whitfield also backtracked from criticizing Newton's mechanics -- "That’s one of Cam Newton’s biggest issues is mechanics," he told McKenna -- and insisted his client has made improvement from his rookie season.

"As far as mechanics, I don't work any kind of mechanics. I work footwork mechanics. But I would not work mechanics. ... I would never put the blame on anybody. He misquoted a lot that stuff.

"Just the title of the article: 'N'Keal Harry's friend blames Cam Newton.' I would never do that, never blame that. You only can control what he can control. The one thing I needed N'Keal to do is get better from last year to this year. He showed this year he can get separation. That was the No. 1 key.

"After that, everything is on whatever scheme they are running, whatever they have going on out there. Whatever route he's running. But my main objection is to make sure N'Keal gets separation this year and he did exactly that."

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Observers of the Patriots' stagnant passing attack may disagree with Whitfield on that point, and Harry currently ranks 63rd among NFL pass-catchers in average separation yards (2.9), per NFL Next Gen Stats.

But regardless of how you feel about Harry's game, Whitfield wants you to know he doesn't hold Newton accountable for his client's shortcomings.

"Cam Newton has nothing at all to do with N'Keal's productivity," Whitfield added. "N'Keal takes advantage of any opportunity he gets when the ball is thrown to him. That's all I can ask of any athlete I work with."