Copeland Tees off

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Jeremaine Copeland is thankful he won't be looking for passes from Tee Martin tomorrow night in Winnipeg.

The Stamps receiver says, based on their track record together, he'd have trouble catching any of the quarterback's attention.

The two were teammates with the Tennessee Volunteers in 1998 -- Copeland's senior year -- when his production dropped like a rock after hauling in 81 passes from Peyton Manning the previous season.

"I didn't have a good year with Tee," shrugs Copeland, 28, now considered among the CFL's top pass catchers.

"I had a good year with Peyton but Tee didn't throw me the ball.

"Me and Tee didn't have a real close friendship at Tennessee. I didn't know what it was or how it happened but the numbers show you enough. To go from 81 catches to 36 in my senior year, you have to know there was a problem going on somewhere.

"You see the way my numbers went down, I wasn't too happy about that."

While Copeland was overlooked, Peerless Price was getting the extra attention en route to the Volunteers' national title, also paving the way for Price's journey to the NFL.

Price is still in the big show, catching passes from Atlanta Falcons pivot Michael Vick while Copeland, undrafted, is expected to star once again on the CFL's much smaller stage, running routes for Henry Burris with the rebuilt Stampeders.

"Peerless Price had all the catches," recalls Copeland, who won't be looking to hook up with Martin off the field either, calling their time together one of the few disappointments of his football career.

"I didn't like it. I still don't like it and I didn't like it throughout that season but I moved on.

"I'm a great player, always have been. I'm blessed.

"Now, whenever it comes to me and Tee, it's, 'What's up, man' and that's about it."

Martin completed just 12 passes in a loss last week against Edmonton, replacing Week 1 starter Kevin Glenn, out with a high ankle sprain. Martin will again get the ball tomorrow night, with Copeland fairly sure his former teammate will eventually turn into a productive player in Canada.

"Tee's got potential to do all right in the CFL," suggests Copeland, not offering a resounding vote of confidence while suggesting Martin's future is in his own hands after signing with the Bombers last season as a free agent.

"I can't take anything away from him. He's a good athlete, he can run the ball and has a strong arm. It's about his work ethic and how hard he works to get better every day. It's all about him. He's definitely mobile enough and at Tennessee that's what he could do, roll out and take off down the field.

"He had a lot of speed in college and so he could pull away from people."

Copeland spent the last four seasons working with Anthony Calvillo in Montreal, earning accolades while winning the Grey Cup in 2002 and latching onto a reputation as one of the CFL's most feared receivers.

Posting 84 catches for 1,174 yards and 10 touchdowns last season following a sensational 2003 campaign during which he led the CFL with 99 grabs for 1,757 yards and 14 TDs, Copeland was a key acquisition for the Stamps in the off-season.

Copeland caught five passes for 82 yards in the season opener against Toronto. He's now trying to build that same rapport with Burris, an elusive bond he never formed with Martin.

"It's a real important facet of the game on offence with your quarterback and receivers," Copeland points out.

"If you don't have good communication between your quarterback and receivers, there's not a whole lot of things you can overcome. Without that, you're lost.

"Me and Henry are doing great. We talk after almost every play in practice. We've always got something to say.

"We stay after practice getting extra work in. We plan to be hitting on all cylinders by halfway through the season and peak for the playoffs."


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