Passed over, Copeland hopes to pass on his pain Chiefs' slight still hurts Redskins DB

November 12, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- Safety Danny Copeland, who has a pain in his neck, hopes to be one for the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Copeland, who sat out last week's game against the Seattle Seahawks with a sprained neck, is a member of the Washington Redskins' walking wounded, but hopes to play anyway.

Copeland has a special incentive. He admits he still holds a grudge against the Chiefs for not giving him a shot to start before he left as a Plan B free agent a year ago.

"Everybody who messes up in this game is off my Christmas list. I want to win this one that bad. Those guys that play great might get something extra," he said.

Copeland said he just smiled when the schedule came out this spring and he found out the Redskins will be playing in Arrowhead Stadium for the first time.

"I don't carry grudges that far, but I don't feel two years is too long to hold one," he said.

Copeland is unhappy that when Deron Cherry was injured at the start of the 1990 season, Jeff Donaldson, who was signed that year on Plan B from the Houston Oilers, was given the starting nod at safety over him.

"When you go through all that extra work and all that kind of stuff and you're not the guy, it hurts," he said.

Copeland is one of two former Chiefs on the roster. The other is punter Kelly Goodburn, who was cut by the Chiefs three games into the 1990 season and was signed later that year by the Redskins.

Goodburn, who's been struggling this year, said he doesn't hold a grudge against the Chiefs.

"There were some bitter feelings at the time. I was disappointed and I guess you would say I was mad at them and held a grudge for a little while, but that's past now," he said.

For Copeland, it's not in the past.

Originally drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1988 out of Eastern Kentucky, he missed his first season with a pulled hamstring and then signed with the Chiefs on Plan B in 1989.

He played only special teams in his two years with the Chiefs and said his self-confidence was eroded when the Chiefs passed on him as a starter.

"After a while, you start to feel, well, maybe, for some reason I can't do this," he said.

That's why he was hesitant to sign with the Redskins when they offered him a Plan B contract last year. He thought maybe he wasn't good enough to be a starter.

"[I thought] why not stay here and milk this thing as far as I can," he said.

What tipped the scale was that the Redskins offered Copeland a chance to become a running back. Copeland had always been interested in taking a crack at that position.

"I was feeling I might not ever get a chance to start at any position so I wanted to do something I felt like I'd have some fun at," he said.

After giving him a quick look at running back in minicamp, the Redskins convinced him that he had a better future at safety.

When strong safety Alvin Walton was injured in the second game, Copeland stepped into the starting lineup and won the job.

Meanwhile, Chiefs coach Marty Schottenheimer said yesterday that he was surprised to hear that Copeland had been unhappy on his team.

"I thought he was happy here, but maybe he wasn't. He's certainly done a nice job with the Redskins," he said.

Copeland was one of two ailing defensive starters who was able to practice yesterday and he said he hopes to start even though he said he's not 100 percent.

The other was middle linebacker Kurt Gouveia, who also has a sprained neck. Copeland and Gouveia were injured two weeks ago when they collided helmet-to-helmet trying for an interception.

Three other players, offensive lineman Joe Jacoby (neck) and linebackers Monte Coleman (neck) and Andre Collins (back), remained sidelined, and the Redskins won't know until later in the week if they can go.

Figure Copeland to start, though. This is one he doesn't want to miss.

NOTES: Coach Joe Gibbs hinted that rookie Robert Green may get more playing time in place of Ricky Ervins. Gibbs, who doesn't like to publicly criticize slumping players, quickly stressed how much Ervins meant to the team last year. But since Green has gained 40 yards in 10 carries for a 10-yard average and Ervins has gained 305 yards in 101 carries for a 3.0 average, Green seems likely to get more work.

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