The talkers always talk to Orlando (Zeus) Brown. He has been around the NFL for seven years now, and the talkers know how he operates. They try to slip their words through the ear holes in his orange helmet with its brown and white stripes down the middle. They have seen how combustible he is, a half tick from frenzy, and they try to play on that, push him over the edge. They try to get inside his head.
John Copeland will try to do that next week. "He'll try to piss me off," Brown says. "He'll try to get me kicked out of the game. He'll be talking and talking. I can't pay him any mind. I have to say, 'All right, Zeus, you have to relax. You can't get caught up in that. Relax. You're going to hurt the team, hurt yourself.' "
The Baltimore Ravens talked in the game on Sept. 26. They know Brown as well as anyone does. He was their teammate last year before he took a free-agent offer in February and went to the expansion Cleveland Browns and settled in at tackle on the right side of the offensive line. Talk? Half the Ravens tried to get Brown to explode, yipping at him, sounding on him. Linebacker Peter Boulware even slapped him. The other half of the Ravens tried to be his friends, to lull him into distraction.
"Zeus, why don't you call me?"
"Zeus, where's my tape at, the one I let you borrow?"
Talkers. Brown did well. He paid the talkers no mind.
He will have to do the same thing against Copeland. Copeland will talk and talk and talk. "The last time I played him, he got me," Brown said a few days before the Browns played the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 10, the first of the teams' two meetings this year. "Or maybe it was two times ago. We got into a fight. I grabbed his face mask. Eric Green had to pull me off him. Copeland kept calling me a fat ass, and I kept calling him an MF. It finally got to me. I started thinking about hurting him more than I did about playing the game. That's what he wants me to do."
The image of Copeland, left defensive end for the Bengals, sat in Brown's consciousness the week before the October game, mixed with, all the important people in Brown's life: mother, father, wife, kids. During that week Brown thought as much about Copeland as about anyone. That will be true next week as well.
There will be no publicity about, nor much notice taken of, their meeting on Dec. 12, this 6'7", 350-pound tackle from the Browns matched against a 6'3", 280-pound end from Cincinnati in a game that means zero in the NFL standings. But publicity and notice are not important parts of the package. This is the individual game, part of the bigger game but separate at the same time. Ground level.