Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer (10.20.22)


Opening statement:

“Good afternoon. Baltimore Ravens week. Obviously, (Ravens Head) Coach (John) Harbaugh was a great special teams coordinator prior to becoming a head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. I knew him when he was back as a coordinator in Philly when I broke into the league. He has always done a great job. His teams have always been outstanding on special teams – good personnel and good coaching. I am sure he has a little bit of a hand in it. I know (Ravens special teams coordinator) Chris Horton is their special teams coordinator and does a great job. (Broncos senior assistant) Jerry Rosburg was the coordinator before that. He did a great job. Chris worked for him so they have a nice legacy going there. That is what I have been studying all week. I have been studying our games from last year and the year before and been studying all of the things that they do with their fakes and different type of kicks. They have a rookie punter who I really liked him out of Penn State (Ravens P Jordan) Stout. I think he is very talented. They have the best returner in the game and the best kicker in the game so obviously we have our work cut out for us. As always, I am very confident and I am excited about the challenge. I know our guys are excited about the challenge. I think we have a good game plan. Had a good day, a really good day yesterday. We punted and kicked in the rain – you guys probably saw us out there – but we got some work done inside, as well. Today we should be outside and continue to get better.”


On K Cade York making all three FG attempts last week after missing two against the Chargers:

“He did a good job. That last one, I think it was 51, he hit it pretty good. Had to drive it a little bit. He is starting to figure out that stadium. The more we obviously get him down there and the more experience he gets, the better he is going to be. I know he spoke with (Browns Legend K) Phil Dawson before. As Phil would tell you, it is never going to be easy and every day is going to be a little bit different, but there are some tendencies with the winds down there so the more experience he gets, I think the more confident he will be in that stadium.”


On CB A.J. Green’s attempt to help recover the onside kick last week:

“I thought it was a great kick. I thought (S) Ronnie (Harrison Jr.) did a great job, and as it bounced away from Ronnie initially, A.J.’s job is to go try to keep it in bounds. I think as he was trying to stay in bounds, he slipped and he fell out of bounds. The young man said he didn’t touch it so that was a tough one. I thought we had a chance there, and the defense did a phenomenal job to force a three-and-out, and we still have a chance to win the game, we are down by nine, four and a half [minutes] to go and we muff the punt. That was a tough sequence there because I think we really had a chance to win that game.”


On frustrations to see special teams miscues on gameday, given the time dedicated to it in practice:

“In the return phases, we do work hard. (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski) does give us a lot of time. I think there are a lot of teams that get a lot of time, and Kevin is right up there with them. Anytime you don’t help your team win the game, no matter what phase it is, you get frustrated. I think we are covering kicks extremely well. I think we are covering punts well. (P) Corey (Bojorquez) has had a good year other than the two the other day were for him subpar. We covered them well. They just got a few yards on them. Are we anywhere where we should be or need to be to help our team win games? Not enough, no. I think you are right in that regard. It is frustrating, but I am a glass half-full guy. I am always positive. I am always going to be positive with our guys. I am going to keep coaching them with energy and intensity. We are always going to have a good gameplan. We are going to know this opponent extremely well like we always do. Our players, who work extremely hard, we have a lot of good young players that this means a lot to them. I think we are going forward only going to see improvement. That is what I expect from our guys because we do set the bar extremely high. You look around the league, there are a lot of teams that aren’t playing well on special teams. There are teams like the Baltimore Ravens who are playing extremely well on special teams. We need to be in that upper echelon. You are right, we are not quite there yet.”


On who will be the Browns PR:

“That remains to be seen. We are going to work some guys today. (WR) Donovan (Peoples-Jones), (RB) Demetric (Felton Jr.) and obviously (WR) Chester (Rogers) still in the mix because he does bring a little bit of a spark. He is out of elevations so he would have to be put on the 53-man roster to get him up, but that still is a possibility.”


On if it was unlike Rogers to muff a punt last week:

“Very much so. He is a surehanded guy. I was shocked. I was shocked. We brought pressure. It was a decent punt. We brought some pressure trying to get a block there. Our corner slowed the guy down pretty good, the gunner on that side slowed him down enough that he just has to come up and either fair catch it or catch it and make that guy miss and he will get 10-15 yards because he did have some room. He was trying to make a play. I felt bad for the kid because obviously it is extremely important to him.”


On if Rogers’ roster status is out of his control due to using all of the available standard practice squad elevations:

“100 percent.”


On if the sun may have impacted Rogers on the muffed punt:

“May have been a part, but he never made any excuse. He just came to the sideline and said, ‘Coach, I didn’t make the play.’”


On if there is more understanding of the mistake for Rogers due to trying to be aggressive and making a play when the muffed punt occurred:

“No because you guys know me, this is four years of ball security. We haven’t had a turnover on special teams since 2019 when (former Browns and free agent WR) Odell (Beckham Jr.) was running with the ball like that and the only punt return he ever returned for us – he was trying to make a play, too. At the end of the day, they are always trying to make a play to be honest with you. No matter what the situation, we are always trying to get field position for our offense. For the most part, even though our return average has not been great, we have done a pretty good job with field position. In certain situations, we need to be more productive.”


On recent comments about some younger Browns players learning how to prepare each week and his role in their development as special teams coordinator:

“I like our group. I think we have brought in a lot of good young players. We have (LB) Jordan (Kunaszyk) No. 51 – I won’t say his last name because I can’t pronounce it; I tease him all of the time about it – he has come in and has done a great job. (LB) Dakota Allen has been up and down the roster, but every time he is on [the active roster] and plays for us on gameday, he is playing as hard as he possible can. We have these young players, (CB) M.J. (Martin) Emerson, I know he is playing more defense, but he did a great job on punt return last week and holding guys up. What I have seen is guys who are young and are eager to learn that want to get better and that may not know how to get better quite yet, and that is my job. My job is to make sure that they understand how to watch tape. It is my job to understand that they know how to do techniques properly all of the time. It is my job to motivate them and to help them in any way that I can. I like our group a lot, and I think they are only going to get better.”


On if it is a challenge for young players to learn the work demands of the NFL compared to college:

“It is every year. I think it is hard for some, maybe because they are not used to it. Other guys, maybe that is how they made it in college. You bring in good players into the NFL, and you expect them to play on offense, defense and special teams. You guys know, we only dress 48 players so they have to perform in all of those phases and in all of those different roles. They might not quite understand that at first, but we are in mid-October and they understand it now. I think they know how to watch tape. I have (TE) Miller Forristall, who is on the practice squad, talking to me today about Baltimore’s punt protection because he is on the scout punt team and he wants to run it the right way. That is the kind of attitude we have in a lot of our guys, if not all of them.”


On if York is attempting to keep the onside kick last week on the ground or if it is OK if the ball pops up in that situation:

“I am not telling. It is a secret.”


On CB A.J. Green being called for illegal touching on the onside kick and if Green should ‘know better’ than to touch the ball in that circumstance:

“He knew. He knows the rule. He slipped. You saw him slip on the sideline. He tried to stay in bounds as he was near the sideline. He didn’t touch the ball – that is what he told me anyway. It was a play that (S) Ronnie (Harrison Jr.) was supposed to recover, and he did. A.J. should have known better not to stick his hand in there to make it even close. He is a smart player. He was trying like crazy to keep the ball in bounds and do his job, and that his job to get over there. He saw it bounce the way it did. Initially, it bounced away from Ronnie. He was trying to keep the ball in bounds. We always know to bat it lateral or behind. You can’t bat it forward – that is an illegal bat. When he slipped, I don’t think he knew he was out of bounds. It was a tough call. I will never, ever going to be upset with effort. It was a great effort play, and A.J. is a high-effort guy. I thought it was a well-executed play, and I thought we had it.”


On if he has encouraged York to talk with Ravens K Justin Tucker:

“I bought him a Justin Tucker jersey – we are going to get it signed at the game, ‘To Cade. Best of luck in the AFC North. Love and kisses (laughter).’ I think Justin is a good guy. I have had great conversations with him in pregame. We all know how great of a kicker he is. I know Cade respects him a lot. The guy has been doing it for 11 years, and any young kicker is going to be a little bit in awe of that type of performance or player who has had those type of performances in his career. Cade is a pretty down-to-earth guy. I am sure they will have their little conversation. Who knows? They are kickers. What are they talking about? Kicking.”


On if Tucker is the greatest NFL kicker of all time:

“I thought (Pro Football Hall of Fame K/T) Lou Groza was the greatest kicker of all time – I work for the Cleveland Browns. I have been around a lot of good kickers – I have coached some of them and I have coached against a lot of them. Obviously, he is up there. Whenever I see him, I call him ‘future Hall of Famer’ because I am sure unless we block a few this week hopefully that will take him down a notch (laughter). He is a great player.”


On if the Ravens special teams units are among the best in the NFL right now:

“I think so. They are good in every phase. They really are. Although, I thought (former Ravens P) Sam Koch was an outstanding punter, he was getting a little bit older, and then they drafted a guy (Ravens P Jordan Stout) who I think is an outstanding punter. He is young, but like I said, he is only going to get better. I think they are very, very good. I love going against them because that is a great challenge for us. It is great setting the bar and see where we are and where we need to go, me as a coach, us with our schemes and of course with our personnel. It should be a fun matchup.”


On if the team expected this much of a challenge in the return game after WR Jakeem Grant Sr.’s injury:

“Anytime you lose a player of the caliber of Jakeem Grant, you know it is going to be tough, but this is the NFL and this is football. Football is a violent game played by violent men, and people get hurt. Unfortunately, that is the name of the game at times. It is my job to make sure that we go out there and do the best we can, next man up mentality and put the guys in position to be successful. I will never, ever use that as an excuse. There are injuries across the league every day.”


On Ravens WR Devin Duvernay as a returner:

“I went down and worked him out right before COVID and all of the restrictions hit. I worked him out as a punt returner because I knew he could be a kickoff returner. I felt – I think I mentioned this to you last year before we played him – that he would be an excellent kickoff returner right off of the bat and was probably a year away from being a punt returner. That is exactly what Baltimore did. To think that he has the strength, he has enough size, he can break tackles, he can make you miss, he has great vision, good ball security and he obviously is very explosive. He already has a touchdown on kickoff return this year. He is a dangerous player, and we are going to try to limit his opportunities in both punt return and kickoff return.”


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