By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Playing in New England is not for everyone. The demands are high, the easy days are nonexistent, and the grind can really wear on a player each and every day.
At the same time, the benefit for playing for the Patriots has been obvious, as the sustained success under Bill Belichick since 2001 has been enough to keep a steady stream of talented players signing up for the hard work.
Linebacker Brandon Copeland can now be added to that list, as the veteran linebacker signed a one-year contract with the Patriots. It marks Copeland’s fifth team since entering the league in 2013, but this time, Copeland said he doesn’t have to do any explaining when it comes to joining his new team.
“As a free agent, having an opportunity to be a part of this organization, the best way for me to put it is … there are certain things that you do in life where you say, where you have that tag line so to speak, and you don’t have to explain anything else after that,” Copeland said on a video conference on Wednesday. “And this is going into my fifth team, my eighth season in the NFL. And, you know, once I told a couple of my buddies or a random person, ‘I’m playing with the Patriots now,’ … period. I hope this doesn’t come off as arrogant or anything, but at that point in time whoever I’m talking to understands that I’m a legit player, right? Just because you wouldn’t even make it into this organization unless you were.”
Even in a post-Tom Brady world, the allure of joining the Patriots and playing for Bill Belichick in a championship-driven organization remains intact.
While it’s easy to understand why Copeland was excited at the prospect of joining the Patriots, it’s equally easy to see what made him appealing to Bill Belichick. Copeland played defensive line at the University of Pennsylvania in the Ivy League, before shifting to middle linebacker as an undrafted rookie with his hometown Baltimore Ravens. He was a quick study at middle linebacker, and he’s since contributed at multiple positions in multiple packages, while also playing on special teams.
“In terms of my own role here, for me I’m literally just going in and trying to learn as much as possible. I’m obviously a linebacker body type, but for me I’m trying to learn … I’ve realized what has 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 said of his versatility. “And so for me, I’ll never try to take that away.”
Copeland also explained how evenas a player who’s worked to earn regular playing time on defense, he remains an eager contributor on special teams.
“For me, I’ve been a guy who, my first year I was practice squad. My second year, I got cut from practice squad after two weeks and sat out the rest of the season. Basically was told, ‘You’re not good enough.’ Did workouts and didn’t get a shot. Came back, did [a veteran] combine in 2015 and that’s when I ran a 4.51, and I’ve been playing, active, ever since,” Copeland said. “For me, I’ll never turn that opportunity to be on the field. So for me, I’m looking forward to getting out there.”
Outside of football, Copeland teaches a class at Penn, he has held seminars to help NFL players with their financial literacy, and he’s also raising his 9-month-old son with his wife. He’s also been active with his charitable work with Beyond The Basics Inc., through which he’s donated $30,000 to pay for groceries for people in Baltimore, New Jersey and Massachusetts, while also hosting a free virtual youth football clinic for high school students.
“I’m big in terms of trying to make sure I’m pulling others up the ladder as I go,” Copeland explained.
Having played for the Lions and Jets over the past four years, Copeland quite clearly is looking forward to the opportunity that awaits him in Foxboro.
“The opinion when you watch, obviously going against the Patriots is they’re a team that does not make a lot of mistakes,” Copeland said. “As a unit they move — and I’m proud to say, we move — as a unit collectively. When you look at them on past film, you can tell that there was a lot of trust on the field in terms of people being in the right position at the right time, not too many guys trying to do multiple jobs in a sense of feeling like they need to overcompensate for the man next to them. So I think they vibe really well as a team in the years that I’ve looked at them and gone against them.”
Copeland later added, “I’ve had nothing but battles against the Patriots in the past, so I’m excited to be with the good guys, so to speak, and to go to work with these guys.”