Copeland wants to be a playmaker for Lions

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Brandon Copeland

Allen Park – It’s common for a professional athlete to suggest they are their own harshest critic, but Detroit Lions defensive end Brandon Copeland might want to ease up on himself.

“I’m very disgusted with the way I’ve played,” Copeland said.

Disgusted? That’s rough.

“At the end of the day, that’s completely honest,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve played terribly, but I haven’t been too happy with the way I’ve played.”

It’s not that Copeland feels he’s not doing his job. He’s actually pleased with how he’s executed his assignments within Detroit’s defensive scheme, during the preseason.

But after making the team last season and playing in all 16 games, he’s raised the bar for his expectations. He doesn’t just want to be a guy, he wants to be a playmaker. And through two exhibition games, where he’s played 48 snaps, he has yet to record a tackle.

“Everyone dreams of making the big plays, the highlights,” he said. “I’m doing my job within the defense and that’s the number one, most important goal, but at the end of the day, I have higher expectation for myself. I can meet those expectations while playing in the defense and that’s what I hope to show you all on Saturday and moving forward.”

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And while the third preseason game is important to every player – whether it’s the starters executing well in the dress rehearsal for the regular season, or the guys on the bubble looking to earn a roster spot – this particular contest has special meaning to Copeland.

The trip to Baltimore is both a return home and a return to where he started his NFL career, with the Ravens as an undrafted rookie out Penn. Copeland’s mother, girlfriend and other family members and friends are expected to be in attendance for the contest.

“This is the week I’ve dreamed of for a long, long time, since the first time they cut me,” Copeland said. “Yeah, it’s a preseason game, but I’m going to get up for it.”

And beyond the homecoming, Copeland is still on edge regarding his spot on the Lions’ roster. Even though all signs point to him making the team, both for his contributions in the defensive line rotation, as well as the spark he provides on special teams, he doesn’t want to hear it.

Copeland learned the hard way, you can never take your foot off the gas in this league. After being released by the Ravens in 2013, and a short stint on the Tennessee Titans practice squad, he was out of the NFL for more than a year before the Lions gave him a new lease on his football life following a standout performance at the short-lived veteran combine in 2015.

Now, he takes nothing for granted and accepts nothing as a given. He has even refused to sign a lease on an apartment, instead opting to live out of a hotel until Detroit finalizes its roster.

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“My own experience with my roller-coaster ride through the NFL, my practice squad years, I always joke with my friends and family, as soon as I started feeling comfortable, as soon as I started planning something two weeks out, that’s when I got a call and I got cut,” he said.  “You can just never feel comfortable. You never know what they’re thinking upstairs.”

It’s an understandable attitude, and even more impressive considering Copeland has quietly developed into a veteran leader in the locker room. Both before and after his interview Tuesday, younger players came to his locker and were asking questions about how to approach certain situations on the field.

If Copeland does make the roster, he should see more playing time this season, after spending the 2015 campaign at linebacker. Moving back to his natural position, defensive end, would grant more opportunities, backing up projected starters Ezekiel Ansah and Devin Taylor.