The game was in Cleveland. Both teams were 0-4. The big story was the battle between rookie quarterbacks Tim Couch of the Browns and Akili Smith of the Bengals. Tony Grossi, the Browns' beat writer, did a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on the key matchups. He mentioned 23 players on the two teams. He did not mention Brown or Copeland.
The day was cloudy but dry, 65°. The new Cleveland Browns Stadium was sold out, with 73,048 spectators. "This is my favorite kind of weather for football, 65 degrees, playing on grass," Copeland said. "Although I do like to play in the snow. Especially when you play against one of those teams from Florida or from out West."
"I like it when we get the ball first," Brown said. "I like to get out there, get going, establish the tone right away. I don't like sitting around."
This time he had to sit. The Bengals received the kickoff, so Brown and Copeland were on the sidelines for the first series of downs. The two men looked for all the world as if they were standing on opposite sides of the same street, waiting for buses traveling in different directions. Brown told himself to relax, to concentrate on technique. Copeland simply waited.
The Bengals drove for a 27-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead before Brown's and Copeland's units went onto the field. Cleveland started with the ball on its own 35-yard line. The dance began.
First play: Couch threw a quick eight-yard swing pass to halfback Terry Kirby for eight yards. Copeland saw it developing and peeled away from Brown in the direction of the action. He was not involved.
Second play: Kirby hit left tackle, the other side, for one yard. Copeland and Brown collided. Not part of the play.
Third play: Kirby again to the left side for two yards and a first down. Copeland and Brown collided. Not part of the play.
Fourth play: Kirby ran over right tackle for four yards. It was a misdirection play, a fake out of the shotgun, and Brown let Copeland run the wrong way.
Fifth play: Couch threw an incomplete pass. Copeland tried a spinning move to get around Brown, but Brown nailed him.