Copeland changes Argos' dynamics

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:43 PM ET

If Jeremaine Copeland walks as good a game as he talks, the Argonauts’ dismal days are over.

“Every time I work with Jim Barker, we win championships, and I don’t see anything changing,” Copeland said on Wednesday. “You can’t deny our record. I really think I am going to bring respect and leadership into that locker room.”

The disintegration of the 2009 Argos is in full force, but with all the new faces on and off the field, Copeland is a personality who has the ability to be a game-changer, both on a weekly basis and in the bigger picture.

The Argos had no marquee offensive player last year, one after whom the others will follow. They do now.

Acquired from the Calgary Stampeders in exchange for another wide receiver, P.K. Sam, Copeland has a history of winning wherever he goes. And it just so happens that he and Barker won an XFL title together in Los Angeles in 2001, a Grey Cup in Montreal in 2002 and another in Calgary in 2008.

The league leader in touchdowns in the CFL last season with 12, Copeland has put up more than 1,000 yards receiving in five of his seven seasons as a full-time player.

No, he is not getting any younger, and turns 33 on Friday. And he is not the quickest guy between the lines, but his ability to get his body into the right spots to make catches where others can’t has helped set him apart. Barker said there is no player in the CFL whom he trusts more than Copeland.

And Barker doesn’t hesitate when he asked when he knew that Copeland was different.

“It was one night in the XFL, and we were playing Chicago,” Barker said. “(Quarterback) Tommy Maddox threw a couple of balls in the air and he somehow came down with each one. Then he did it again in double overtime. That’s when I thought, ‘This guy is something special.’”

Remember the Argos’ offence under Bart Andrus, wherein short dump passes often were the highlights and stretching the field was never done? It’s not going to be like that with Copeland in uniform.

The Argos offence, which should come to greater light when an offensive co-ordinator is hired, should be plenty more explosive, regardless of who the quarterback will be.

“He brings a knowledge of the game that is unsurpassed,” Barker said of Copeland. “He knows how to attack coverages. He’s going to have a major impact on this organization.”

If it sounds like that’s a lot to put on one guy’s shoulders, Copeland has no problem. He was a major factor the Calgary Stampeders turned it around after he arrived from Montreal five years ago.

“Man, I love pressure,” Copeland said with a hearty laugh. “I’m going to eat it up. I’m hoping and praying I can keep everyone satisfied and that I won’t let the fans down.”

And about playing for Barker? Copeland promised excitement.

“You can expect the unexpected when it comes to Coach B,” Copeland said. “He changes up everything. You can move the ball slowly down the field, and then he comes right at you. Any type of trick there is, he has in the playbook. Guys love playing for him.”

Copeland’s presence in the room will be felt, and those who know him well say there is no trouble with ego. Copeland has an undoubtable swagger, but he is not a hothead.

Argos defensive tackle Adriano Belli was a teammate of Copeland with the Als on that ’02 Cup team, and as an opponent, has watched Copeland mature.

“He’s the kind of guy who rallies the troops,” Belli said. “They will follow his lead. He is a great team guy.”

Copeland already was talking like a man who was ready to change the culture with the Argos. He’s as much a CFL fan as he is a star and watched, in his estimation, nearly every regular season game last year.

“I want to bring back pride of ownership,” Copeland said. “We get paid to catch the ball, and when I watched the Argos last year, there were a lot of drops. You have pride of ownership, and it brings the team closer together.”

The Argos couldn’t help but wait as the ownership issue dragged the team through the winter months. But when the dam burst last week and David Braley took over mere hours after Barker was hired as coach, the changes began.

It’s early, but there’s optimism, a feeling that had disappeared.


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