Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer (9.23.21)


Opening statement:

“Good afternoon. I thought we played well last Sunday. I thought we covered kicks well. Made all of our kicks. Put pressure on their field goal kicker all day, and (S) M.J. Stewart got his hand on that last one, which was a big play. We would have had to put the hands team out there. Taki (LB Sione Takitaki) got on that first punt. It was not a great punt, but sometimes better be lucky than good, I would think. (P) Jamie (Gillan) had a great punt in the fourth quarter, pinned them at the 12-yard line and knocked it out of bounds. Kickoff return, we started with a solid return and then the young man [RB Demetric Felton] had a 15-yarder in the fourth quarter that helped get us good field position. We are getting there. Not anywhere close to where I think we can be or need to be to help us win a bunch of games during the season. Excited where we are. We have a big, big challenge this weekend. (Special teams coordinator) Coach (Chris) Tabor is coming back to Cleveland – I know you guys know him. I am excited about this weekend’s game.”


On how the Browns special teams coverage has improved from last year:

“I think we have good players. Our kicker has done a nice job. We tweaked the scheme a little bit. I will be honest with you, having three preseason games really helped for the things that we want to do. We are not going to go out there and bang touchbacks all day long. I am not a big fan of that, and our head coach is not either. We want to pin people inside the 20, which we have done successfully so far this year. I think having a preseason under our belt, getting those guys out there making mistakes in the preseason, improving during practice and then putting it all together on gameday, that has really helped us.”


On the decision to put Felton on punt return:

“He and (WR) Donovan (Peoples-Jones) did punts in the first game. I do not know if Donovan took a rep the other day or not. Donovan is more of the plus-50, sure-handed type guy. I think Demetric is a little bit more explosive. He has great quickness and good running back vision, which I know we have talked about before that good returners should have good running back vision. Hopefully, he will keep getting better. Does not always make great decisions. The one at the end of the first half was a little nerve-wracking, but he learned from that. He is really smart. He is conscientious. He is trying to get better. He was not a punt returner in college so this is all new to him. Every rep is going to be a learning experience for him.”


On if Felton’s improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 was the result of having the first NFL game as a returner:

“I think so. He has a long way to go, and he will tell you that, as well. We talk about situational football all of the time. We have talked about situational football since he has been here. I think he is going to improve with every rep that he gets.”


On if Felton should have let the punt go at the end of the first half:

“Yeah, if you are not going to catch it clean – we blocked it OK; the guy outkicked his coverage a little, and we had the corners slow down a little bit – but my instructions for him going out there was ‘Look, we are going to go after this. There is not enough time to get a return and then get a big play, we will probably take a knee if we had the ball on offense because of where the ball ended up.’ Basically, do not do what he ended up doing so he did not follow instructions very well (laughter). Again, he got it back and the clock went to zero anyway, and we learned from it. We just have to make sure that we understand how important every situation is.”


On what specifically is strong about the Bears special teams unit:

“They are well-coached. They have a great kickoff cover team. That is a big challenge for us. They have good specialists. (Bears K Cairo) Santos was darn near perfect last year with his field goals and PATs. He kicks off well. For a little guy, he has a great leg. Their (Bears) punter Pat O’Donnell has been there a long time. He is a good directional punter. He has got what we call a hook off, where he looks like he is punter to our left and he hooks it back across his body to our right so he can do some things there. They do some good things. They are always a fake threat. We are preparing for all of their fakes that they have run over the years. Every situation will be a challenge for us because in every situation, they use something different because they are a well-coached team.”


On if Stewart deflected the FG attempt late in the game:

“M.J. Stewart got three fingers on it. He sure he did.”


On if Stewart’s defection caused the ball to shift:

“It caused it to go to his left, yes. It was great. We had been pressuring him all day. I know we had a couple of close calls inside. (DE Jadeveon) Clowney came close on one and then (CB) Denzel Ward came close on another one. We were knocking most guys back all day long, and M.J. got his hand up. That was big because as you know, that cuts it to a one-score game. We would have to put our hands team out there, and you know how that is. We have been successful here on hands team, but you never know – every situation is different.”


On if Stewart came off the end to get his fingers on the FG attempts:

“He was the second guy. Yes, you had Denzel and then he was the second guy in. (LB) Elijah Lee did a great a great job knocking their end back so their wing was in a little bit of a bind, which is why we use that scheme. He got his hands up, and he timed it up perfectly.”


On if he knows Tabor well:

“Oh yeah, I have known him a long time. He was at Missouri when I was a Kansas City when I was with the Chiefs, and he came over and we would talk ball one day. Very knowledgeable, hard-working and very creative with his different schemes and his fakes. He does a really nice job.”


On if he knows how many coaches Tabor worked for during his time in Cleveland:

“I do not even know. Is it four? Wow. God bless him. He is a good coach. That is why he stuck around.”


On if Santos played with Tampa Bay:

“He was.”


On what happens when a K can’t make it one place, goes to another team and has success:

“With Cairo, he did a great job in Kansas City and then he got hurt. When a guy gets hurt, obviously, they find somebody else and then Kansas City went to (Chiefs K) Harrison Butker. Harrison has had a really nice career there. I think if sometimes the combination of injuries and maybe having a two-week stretch where you do not kick the ball well and the organization loses patience with you and you move on. I think he has had a really nice career. Every time he has been a free agent, we have a taken a hard look at him at the different places I have been.”


On if he has gotten to know WR Odell Beckham Jr. well during the last three seasons:

“Yeah, I do not talk to him a whole lot because after that first punt return in San Francisco a couple of years ago in 2019, we do not talk much about special teams – he was holding the ball like a loaf of bread (laughter). I do like to tease him about that from time to time. He is a pro, and I am an older guy who has been around for a while. I think I can offer some advice to anybody who will listen. Sometimes we will talk situations. I think he is a good kid who wants to do well, he wants to play and I know he wants to come back. I think he has done an amazing job. I thought he was ready for Week 1, but I know he has got his timetable. Hopefully, he can play for us this weekend.”


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