Harry ready to seize opportunity for Bears in homestretch originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
CHICAGO -- When Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool went down in the Bears' Week 12 loss to the New York Jets, wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert walked over to N'Keal Harry on the sideline and delivered a message.
"During the fourth quarter, I went to him over there and I said, 'remember I told you your time was going to come?'" Tolbert told NBC Sports Chicago. "He said, 'yeah.' I said, 'your time is going to come now. What are you going to do to keep it? You're going to get an opportunity to go play next week, what are you going to do to keep it?'... you got to get that spot and don't give it up.'"
While Claypool returned, Mooney suffered a season-ending ankle injury. With Mooney done for the year, it was almost certain that Harry would return to action after being inactive for three weeks.
Tolbert said Harry had the best practices of his Bears tenure in the lead-up to Sunday's game vs. the Green Bay Packers. That was no surprise to Tolbert, who could tell Harry sensed this was his moment.
Harry returned to the field Sunday in the Bears' 28-19 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. The fourth-year wide receiver played just five snaps but made the most of them, catching a 49-yard jump ball from quarterback Justin Fields in the fourth quarter. That was a good play, but the 24-year-old receiver thinks he can play a bigger role in the future.
"At the end of the day, I know I can do more," Harry said after Sunday's loss. "I know I can make a bigger impact. I just got to really lock in these last few weeks and make sure I'm ready to go."
Harry ran a curl route initially, but Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander sat on it. Fields felt pressure and spun out of the pocket to the left. Once Fields evacuated the pocket, Harry took off deep, and Fields threw a 50-50 ball up that the receiver went up and snagged.
Fields and head coach Matt Eberflus both lauded Harry for the leaping grab. Harry credited the catch to his "instincts."
When Harry arrived in Chicago prior to training camp, the Bears were seen as the ideal landing spot for the former first-round pick to have a second lease on NFL life after failing to meet expectations with the New England Patriots.
A high-ankle sprain and subsequent tight-rope surgery robbed Harry of the first six weeks of the season. He played well when he returned to the field but ultimately found himself inactive on game day because of his lack of experience on special teams.
Tolbert praised Harry for his work as a run-blocker and as a route runner. Harry has five catches on six targets for 93 yards and one touchdown in four games this season. He does not have a drop this season.
That's good production for a guy who has been the No. 4 or No. 5 option when active on Sundays.
It's also motivation for him to find a way to get more time on turf.
"Obviously, I want to play. I love this game, and I love being out there," Harry said. "But at the end of the day, I got to control what I can control. I got to go out there every day at practice and try to make as much of an impact as I can.
"I got to make the most out of every opportunity. I've been working really hard. Trying to stay mentally ready, stay physically ready. I got to take advantage of every opportunity moving forward."
Harry finished sixth in snaps among wide receivers in Sunday's loss to the Patriots. But it was just six weeks ago that he played 50 snaps in a loss to the Cowboys. Snaps among Bears wide receivers fluctuate weekly, so there's a good chance Harry will see more action in the final four games of the regular season.
Here's the snap count from the Bears' Week 13 loss to the Packers:
Quarterback: Justin Fields 52
Running back: David Montgomery 40, Darrynton Evans 13, Trestan Ebner 1
Wide receivers: Dante Pettis 34, Chase Claypool 33, Equanimeous St. Brown 30, Byron Pringle 20, Velus Jones Jr. 12, N'Keal Harry 5
Tight end: Cole Kmet 52, Ryan Griffin 16, Trevon Wesco 2
Offensive line: Braxton Jones 52, Cody Whitehair 52, Teven Jenkins 52, Sam Mustipher 52, Riley Reiff 42, Alex Leatherwood 10, Michael Schofield 2
Defensive line: Justin Jones 49, Armon Watts 37, Al-Quadin Muhammad 36, Dominique Robinson 34, Trevis Gipson 33, Mike Pennel 26, Andrew Brown 23, Taco Charlton 23, Angelo Blackson 3
Linebackers: Jack Sanborn 66, Nicholas Morrow 66, Matt Adams 15
Defensive backs: Jaylon Johnson 66, Elijah Hicks 66, DeAndre Houston-Carson 66, Jaylon Jones 65, Josh Blackwell 51, Harrison Hand 1
Special teams: Adams 18, Joe Thomas 18, Sterling Weatherford 14, A.J. Thomas 13, Ebner 13, Evans 13, Velus Jones Jr. 13, Griffin 12, Blackwell 11, Trenton Gill 11, Adrian Colbert 10, Hicks 9, Blackson 9, Justin Layne 8, Pringle 7, Houston-Carson 6, Robinson 6, Patrick Scales 6, Cairo Santos 5, Dieter Eiselen 5, Gipson 5, Justin Jones 5, Jaylon Jones 5, Morrow 5, Braxton Jones 5, Whitehair 5, Jenkins 5, Leatherwood 5, Schofield 5, Pettis 3, Harry 2, Sanborn 2, Hand 2, Watts 1, Wesco 1, Jaylon Johnson 1
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