FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The Jets lost another linebacker on Wednesday when the NFL suspended Brandon Copeland for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
The news comes as the Jets are already scrambling to fill the spot of starting inside linebacker Avery Williamson, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL on Thursday.
Copeland, an outside linebacker who started 10 games for the Jets last season, denied knowingly taking a banned substance on his Instagram account.
“This offseason, I began taking a supplement AFTER multiple verifications that it was safe for me to use," Copeland wrote. “Unfortunately, this supplement was contaminated with a banned substance — NOT on its label. Regardless of the reason, League policy says I am responsible for what is in my body.”
Copeland also wrote: “I trust that the ppl who know my heart understand that I would never intentionally take a banned substance. To be quite honest, I’m very fond of hard work and wouldn’t want success with the artificial help.”
Later, Copeland wrote: “Although I can NEVER make up for time loss on the field and away from my teammates who have become family, my team and I will be taking the necessary steps to rectify this situation to the fullest extent of the law.”
Copeland, 28, is the second Jets player banned by the NFL for the first four games of the season. Tight end Chris Herndon was suspended on July 12 for violating the league’s substances of abuse policy. Herndon pleaded guilty in January to driving while intoxicated after a June 2018 arrest.
Both players are eligible to participate in preseason practices and games and will be allowed to return to the active roster on Monday, Oct. 7, following the team’s fourth game of the season at Philadelphia.
Copeland, an undrafted free agent out of Penn, was a pleasant surprise for the Jets last season after spending his first three years with the Lions (he missed the final one with a torn pectoral muscle).
Copeland had five sacks and 14 quarterback hits last season and re-signed with the Jets in the offseason. He was not considered a lock to make the season-opening roster under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, however.
They were already grappling with how to replace Williamson. On Tuesday, the team signed linebacker Stephone Anthony, who played for the Dolphins the last two seasons under new Jets coach Adam Gase.
Anthony was a first-round pick of the Saints in 2015 and played in New Orleans under current Jets linebackers coach Joe Vitt.
Anthony, who was released by the Falcons on Saturday, wore No. 55 in practice on Wednesday. Gase said the 28-year-old will get a look before the Sept. 8 season opener against the Bills.
“He knows a little bit of our defense,” Gase said. “It’s a little different than what he’s been in, but at the same time there’s similarities to what he did when he was younger. I just think it’s a good job by the personnel department to just keep searching for guys that can kind of fit in with our culture and, at the same time, create some competition and depth.”
As to whether Anthony will have enough time to get up to speed and make the team for the opener, Gase said: “We’ll see how everything shakes out. I know it’s a short period of time before we kind of cut down the rosters, so he’s got a couple of weeks here to pick up things and fast as possible and kind of see if he fits in.”