Veteran linebacker Brandon Copeland signed with the Patriots as a free agent this offseason, the former undrafted player out of the University of Pennsylvania joining his fifth NFL franchise after spending the last two seasons with the rival New York Jets.
Wednesday afternoon, the affable, well-spoken newcomer told reporters on a WebEx call what lured him to New England.
“As a free agent, having an opportunity to be a part of this organization…the best way to put it is there are certain things in life where you have that tag line, so to speak, and you don’t have to explain anything else after that,” Copeland explained. “This is going into my fifth team, my eighth season in the NFL and once I told a couple of my buddies, ‘Hey, ya know, I’m playing with the Patriots now.’ Period. I hope this doesn’t come off as arrogant or anything like that, but it’s like at that point in time whoever I’m talking to understands that I’m a legit player. Just because you wouldn’t even make it into this organization unless you were.”
Copeland, who also spent time with the Ravens, Titans and Lions since entering the league in 2013, clearly respected the Patriots from afar and across the field.
“The opinion, obviously going against the Patriots, is they are a team that does not make a lot of mistakes,” Copeland observed. “When you are going against quote unquote a dynasty, actually not even quote unquote, a dynasty, the coaches try to sell you and tell you you don’t have to play superhuman. ‘We just have to play our game and outplay them.’ But they understand that you actually have to play pretty damn well to compete and keep up with these guys because as a unit, they move and I’m proud to say we move as a unit collectively. When you look at them in the past on film you could tell that there was a lot of trust on the field in terms of people being in the right position, the right time. Not too many guys trying to do multiple jobs in terms of them trying to overcompensate for the man next to them. So I think that they vibed really well as a team in the years that I’ve looked at them and gone against them.”
Copeland brings defensive versatility and core specials teams experience with him to New England. He’s started 14 of 64 games played in his career including 10 with the Jets in 2018. His career numbers include seven sacks, 19 QB hits, four passes defensed and two forced fumbles. A college defensive lineman, he moved all around the front for the Lions and Jets, priding himself on having the size (6-3, 263) and athleticism to fill a variety of roles.
“I’m literally going in and trying to learn as much as possible,” Copeland said. “I’m obviously a linebacker body type, but for me I’m trying to learn…I’ve realized what’s kept me in the league for this long and at the level I’ve played at is the fact that I can do multiple things at a high level.”
Copeland went on to recall a game in Detroit in which he went from a down defensive end, to outside linebacker, to middle linebacker, to dime linebacker while playing all four special teams.
“That was my first active season in the NFL and I’m like, I’m probably the one guy in this arena that can play eight different positions like this. I let the coaching staff do whatever they want to with me,” Copeland said.
As a guy who began his career on the practice squad in Baltimore and then was cut from the Titans practice squad before clawing his way back into the league at a regional veteran combine by running a 4.5 40, Copeland is open to any chances he can get to play, including special teams.
“I’ll never turn down an opportunity to be on the field,” Copeland said. “I’m looking forward to getting out there. I’ve had nothing but battles against the Patriots in the past on special teams. So I’m excited to be with the good guys, so to speak, and to go to work with these guys.”
Unfortunately for now he’s with those guys only in a virtual sense. Still living in a condo in New Jersey with his wife and 10-month-old son and doing workouts in his garage with his father, Copeland is in the midst of a unique acclimation process thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
A man with many interests, including ongoing community service running his own foundation and putting his Penn economics degree to use teaching finance classes and webinars, Copeland is used to “compartmentalization” of his tasks, “prioritization” in his life and finding a way to get it all done in a productive manner.
Now, he’s just excited to show his new teammates and new community of fans exactly what kind of player and man he is whenever he actually gets that chance.
“This is where that virtual space affects that,” Copeland said. “It affects the amount of time to get to know your teammates and be in the locker room and joke with someone next to you and create that off-field impact relationship, so to speak. We can’t hang out after a workout and that type of stuff. However, with that being said whatever time that we do have I just want to leave my mark on everyone I come into contact with. Whether that’s the player next to me, the player opposite me on the offensive side, the chef, the janitor. And the same thing for Patriots fans and followers. I’ve been fortunate to, I think personally, leave a positive mark anywhere I go. For me, that is the most important thing. When I step on the field you know you’re going to get my all. There is never going to be a play that you look at and be like, ‘Did he give his all there or not?’ You know you are going to get a fighter. You know you are going to get a dog who is going to work his tail off. That’s base-level.”