Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer (1.5.22)


Opening statement:

“Coming off a big win in Washington, a nice road win for us. Very focused this week on the Pittsburgh Steelers. What a great opportunity, a great rivalry in the NFL. As you guys know, I am from Cleveland so Cleveland-Pittsburgh games have always been near and dear to my heart ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s on through when the Browns came back in 1999. It has been a good week thus far. Hope to get outside and practice today, continue to improve and get better. I think we played really well on Sunday. We have played well the second half of the season on special teams. We need to continue that and set the foundation for 2023.”


On the performance in recent weeks C Corey Bojorquez, who was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after the Washington game:

“He is becoming a more consistent performer. When we signed Corey as a free agent, that is what we expected from him. He had some good games early, and he had some games that he would like to take back and we all would like to take back. He has really improved. He is focused. I love his mentality, I love his work ethic and he is a very talented young man.”


On the importance of Bojorquez being able to deliver directional punts, in addition to longer punts:

“The combination of the distance, the hang, the direction and using the crosswind when it is there. Like I said he has a great mentality. He doesn’t get flustered. He doesn’t get ruffled. He has a great mentality, and I think he is just hitting his stride as a young punter. I know he had some good years in Buffalo and Green Bay, but I think he understands how to kick in poor weather. He gets it. it doesn’t bother him. He has done a nice job.”


On what has led to the Browns special teams units’ improvement during the second half of the season:

“Like any team in the league, you are always going to have a play here or a play there. The thing that I like about our guys is they bought in. They bought in since Day 1. They want to be great. They want to do the right fundamentals and techniques. With young players, you obviously have to continue to coach them and continue to make sure that they are doing the right things fundamentally. I really like the fact that these young players have stepped up the second half of the year and have done well for us, including (K) Cade (York). Those blocked field goals were low – two of them were low kicks. I think our field goal protection has ben outstanding all year. Going into this last game, we have to finish strong and set that foundation.”


On if it is beneficial for York to get experience kicking at Acrisure Stadium this week, even though the weather forecast looks decent and weather conditions may not be as difficult as other weeks in Pittsburgh:

“Oh, of course. We got a little bit of a weather report today that it is not supposed to be as bad as it could be in Pittsburgh. I think that open end of the stadium intimidates anybody when you are watching it from afar or watching it on tape. When he gets in there on Sunday morning and starts warming up late morning, I think that will be real important for him to understand how the wind is working in that stadium. Hopefully, it won’t be too bad.”


On if the Browns wanted to give WR Jaelon Darden some work with the opportunity as a punt returner last week:

“Yeah, when you have that kind of talent that hasn’t dressed the first two or three weeks that he was here. He has done a really nice job in practice. He has good quickness. He did a good job the other day. He made the first guy miss, got up field and did the things that we ask him to do. I am excited about him. He could be a guy who could compete for the job next year. It would be good to get some tape on him in a Browns uniform.”


On if this has been one of the hardest years on special teams due to injury and having to move players into different roles on the units:

“It is a good question. When you are going through it, you don’t think about it being harder than any other year. You just kind of roll with it. That is what we have done. We have literally switched the depth chart on Sunday mornings. You get guys who are sick, guys who can’t play or this guy can’t play so his backup [on offense or defense is getting more snaps], like (S) D’Anthony Bell who is playing more on defense. It is like any other year and any other team goes through it, and I never make excuses. The thing that I think that we do a good job of here is that we prepare these young guys whether they are on practice squad or backups of preparing the entire year. That way when their number is called, they step up. When you bring the right type of people that we bring in and that our personnel guys bring in and then you train those young men to make sure that they are ready when their number is called, then they go out and perform. I think we have done that this year.”


On if he speaks with Head Coach Kevin Stefanski about building the foundation for special teams next season through the continued development of younger Browns players during this time of the year:

“That is what the offseason is for to be honest with you. This week, we are focused on the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I know he is focused on what he has to focus on as a head coach and calling the plays, just like our defense is getting ready. This is a big week for us because it is Pittsburgh. It is a meaningful game for the Cleveland Browns, for our city, for our fans and for this organization. That is what the focus is this week. You are right, we will look back on this year and we will do all of the reports and all of the studies, reflect on the year and then go from there. I am excited about the future. I think that there are some good pieces to the puzzle, and we are going to keep getting better.”


On how to help Browns players process what occurred with Bills S Damar Hamlin while also preparing to play in this week’s game:

“First of all, I have met that young man. My son (Michael Priefer Jr.) was a GA on that (Pitt) staff, and (Pitt Head) Coach (Pat) Narduzzi is a very close friend of mine. I know he was really shook up as the whole nation was shook up. Obviously, like anybody else, we are thinking about him and praying for him. I told our guys, the thing that we can’t do is we can’t play tentative. When we play tentative and go out there and do your job, that is when guys get hurt when they play tentative. The good thing about us is I think we do a good job of coaching fundamentals and techniques. We do the right things. We keep our head out of tackling. We keep our head out of taking on blocks and blocking and do all of the little things right. That being our foundation in terms of getting prepared for every phase on special teams, I think that is going to help our guys in having confidence moving forward. I know Coach Stefanski talked about it affects everybody differently. It affects all of you guys differently. It has been a rough deal. We just obviously keep hoping that he continues to get better and makes a full recovery.”


On the biggest challenge on special teams this season:

“Like any other year, when you take young players and like you guys said, we have had injuries and you have guys going in and out, it is not easy. It is very difficult. It is time consuming. That is what I love about my job. I get to teach young guys who are very enthusiastic about the game of football, love the game of football and want to get better and want to continue to improve. We have guys calling me up every day. ‘I need some extra work here. Can I get extra work here?’ Even the guys like D’Anthony Bell, like I mentioned him earlier, he comes up for extra work, and he has been a special teams standout for us the entire year as a college free agent safety for us. I love my job. I love what I do. I love the challenges that it presents every week. I think those challenges are fun for me. I think every special teams coordinator in the league goes through those type of challenges, but I actually love it. When you have some adversity and you go out and you play well when guys who just are activated on Saturday morning and they go out and play well for you, that means you have done your job and that they have done their job to prepare.”


On York experiencing ups and downs this season and how York has handled that experience to become more consistent:

“Like we have talked a lot about here and you guys ask me about Cade every week, he is very confident. He knows he is good. He is good. There are some things that he needs to do a little bit better that when he comes back next year that is what we would expect him to improve upon. I do like the future for Cade because he does have that mentality and confidence about him. Now, he has a year under his belt, and that is only going to help him going forward. When he studies this year – the good, the bad and the ugly – and then improves from there, I think he is only going to get better.”


On if he has spoken to Stefanski about the future of the Browns and if there is any uncertainty about his position with the team:

“No. I love it here. I am under contract. I don’t plan on going anywhere else. I am from Cleveland. I want to help Cleveland win a world championship. That is why I am here, and that is my focus.”


On his approach with uncertainty of individual futures being a ‘nature of the business’ as a coach:

“Get ready for the Pittsburgh Steelers this week and let the chips fall where they may. Let’s go win a game and continue getting better that way.”


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