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It Seems N'Keal Harry, Who Suffered a Head Injury Sunday, Has a History of Suffering Head Injuries

Stew Milne. Shutterstock Images.

Needless to say, it's a tough time to be N'Keal Harry. Not only have you caught four passes for 27 yards during a three game losing streak where your team has averaged 9.3 points per game, you've done it while the guys in your wide receiver draft class are producing huge numbers and making plays that will live on as coaching points for all eternity.

Among the other wideouts in the Class of 2019 of which Harry was the second pick after only Hollywood Brown, he is currently:

  • 10th in receptions
  • 12th in reception %
  • 13th in yards
  • 11th in touchdowns (with one)
  • 18th in yards per reception
  • 10th in YAC per reception
  • 11th in 1st downs, and
  • 16th in passer rating when targeted

Worse still, you staggered off the field Sunday after getting a pass broken up:

… clearly suffering from what we used call getting your metaphorical bell colloquially rung. That is, before we really understood how bad the effects are of hits that make a 6-foot-4, 225 pound physical specimen crabwalk over to the blue tent. And we finally realized the cumulative effects of repeated head trauma are a serious business that deserve grown up talk, not euphemisms. 

And the operative words there are "cumulative" and "repeated." Because now something is coming to people's attention that should've been common knowledge before. At least to the Patriots college scouting department. I'll give credit where it's due. On the Sports Hub's "Toucher and Rich" show this morning, they did a two second search and found this. 

Source - Having gone through the bad side-affects of head injuries at a young age, Harry has been more cognizant of the safety that is needed on the football field and the action that needs to be taken if concussion symptoms arise. A knowledge-base that is much higher than many others his age he might not have had to deal with significant head injuries to this point.

“Having concussions, especially at that age, you learn that if your head is bothering you or you feel you might have a concussion, you’ve got to tell somebody,” Harry said. “There are times in a game where you really don’t want to tell anybody and there’s even times I might play through that. But even after the game if anything is going on, I am going to tell my trainer because I don’t want anything to happen to me that makes it tougher for me to live down the road.”

And it's not hard to agree with Harry on every word of this. And you don't need a PSA from me or to watch some Will Smith movie to understand why.

But it does beg the question whether the Patriots knew about Teen N'Keal's past history of concussions when they decided to use the 32nd overall pick on him. I mean, it's one thing if Rob Gronkowski was sidelined with back surgeries in college or Dominique Easley had his ACL repaired. Those things can mend. If everything we've learned about concussions over the last few years is true, the more you've had them, the more susceptible you are. The risk of having more of them and the damage they cause goes up with each one. In a league where they spend millions to measure every measurable thing about college prospects and give them bizarro interviews to find out about the immeasurables and give them more thorough medical exams than astronauts get, you have to wonder if the Patriots had this information. 

I know I didn't. Here's what I wrote about Harry in a draft preview:

Unless I’m missing somebody, Harry is about to become the entire population of NFL players born in the nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. While he’s not an explosive player, he feeds off contested catches, comebackers and back shoulder throws. He’s been largely considered a potential Day 2 pick thanks to his toughness and pro-level body control when fighting for balls. But word is he’s dropping down draft boards as personnel guys aren’t seeing suddenness in and out of his breaks or explosiveness. The comparisons to Devin Funchess aren’t helping. But in a short passing/controlled offense, he could definitely find a role.

I check at least a half dozen sources for these write ups. In some cases more. And I have to think if "He's had a ton of head injuries and is a major risk of having more" came up in any of them, I trust that 2019 Jerry would've deemed that worthy of putting into the paragraph. And yet here the information was, in an Arizona news source and Harry's own words. 

Either the Patriots knew and their medical staff signed off on it. Or they didn't know. And I'm not sure which possibility is the most damning. 

Maybe I'm just reacting in the moment because the team is struggling, Harry hasn't played to the level you hope for when you give a guy the honor of being the first wideout taken in the first round of the Belichick Epoch, and I see DK Metcalf (64th pick) with five TDs and 21.6 YPR and Terry McLaurin (76th pick) with 577 yards. Maybe Harry will be fine. That he'll be in the league for 15 more years and break all the franchise's receiving records and never stumble off the field again. But even if that happens, right now I'd like to know how if this history of head injuries is as much news to the Patriots as it is to me.