Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer (11.10.22)


Opening statement:

“Good afternoon. Coming off the bye week, like most coaches and most teams do, we went back and did a really deep dive into our cut-ups and some of the things we are doing well and some of the things we need to work on. You get an opportunity obviously all year long to go back and look at your games and game tape and grade everything, but I think having a good full week to go back and really take a good hard look at personnel, schemes, what teams are trying to do to us and what we are trying to do to other teams. It was a real good week. We had some good ideas coming out. We know what we need to work on, and that will be the emphasis going forward. Really looking forward to getting back on the field on Sunday afternoon.”


On if RB Jerome Ford could return kickoffs again on Sunday:

“He is still [designated to return from injured reserve but not on the active 53-man roster]. I don’t know what that period is called when they come back from the IR. He is definitely an option because I thought he did a really nice job for us before he got hurt. He remains one of our options there.”


On if there is a common theme to the blocked FGs during the past two games:

“I thought really the long one against Baltimore, like we talked about, (Ravens LB Malik) Harrison did a great job for them. He was right at the line of scrimmage. The protection was good and the kick was probably a tad bit low, but it was a 60-yarder. The one against Cincinnati, it was a low kick. We just need to do a better job with elevation consistently. The great thing about (K) Cade (York) is that he is so confident in his abilities and our guys are confident in him – coaches and obviously our players – he comes back at the end of the first half and hits a 55-yarder after (Bengals K Evan) McPherson missed his. That was huge swing for us. That was a big six-point swing at the end of the half, and then we got the ball coming out of the half coming into the third quarter. That was a big play for us.”


On how much a K focuses on trajectory with any given kick or if it simply about how the K strikes the ball:

“I think how you strike the ball is going to give you that elevation. I think it is extremely important. Especially in our league, there are so many big men that come through the A and the B gaps. On that particular play, the protection was solid. We just have to get the ball up in the air. We have talked about this before, when I evaluate in the offseason for free agency or the draft, we talk about timing if it doesn’t get blocked off the edge; we talk about elevation so it does not get blocked up the middle; and of course, we talk about accuracy, which is the common theme of all great kickers. Those are the things we are looking at. His timing has been excellent since he has been here. The snaps and holds have been good. He just has to focus on elevation going forward. I know he had a really nice day yesterday, and we are going to have another nice day tomorrow.”


On if York has been everything the team has envisioned since being drafted:

“Absolutely, and he is a 21-year-old kid. He is everything I thought he would be in terms of talent, leg strength, his mental approach to the game and how important it is to him. Whenever he has had a day in practice where he has not been as good or a game where he misses a kick, he goes back and does a really nice job evaluating why did he miss a kick or why did he hit the ball low, and he goes out and does everything he can to correct it. He is a student of the game, and he has a great mindset. He has a great mental approach to it. He is everything I thought he would be. Of course, you want your kicker to make every kick, but that is just not humanly possible.  I am excited for his future here in Cleveland, and of course, the rest of the year, he is going to help us win a  lot of games down the stretch.”


On York being pissed off going into his last FG after a miss and if it is counterintuitive for a K to ‘kick angry’:

“I think probably a more accurate description would have been he is going to buckle down. He is so competitive, and that is probably what he meant. He didn’t kick angrily. He was just mad at himself. ‘I am going to go out, and I am going to make this next kick,’ with that competitive fire in his belly that he has – all great ones do, and he definitely has that. Like I said, not many kickers, especially at his level of experience and his age, misses a kick early and go out and hits a 55-yarder that could of been good from who knows how long. He crushed that ball. I was real proud of that. That is a tribute to him and to his mental approach to the whole process.”


On each specials teams play having the ability to swing a game:

“True. That is why I love what I do. I have the best job in America. I get to work with the whole team, get to effect young men in a positive manner and get to coach football, and they are paying me to do it so it is not a bad deal. It can be stressful, but that is the part I love. That is why you have to approach every week: how do we win this game?  How do we beat the Miami Dolphins? It is different than how we beat the Cincinnati Bengals. It is different than how we beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Every game is different, and that is our challenge each week. I love the coaching part of it, the teaching part of it, the scheme part of it and the motivation part of it. I love it.”


On how to help correct mental and technique mistakes on special teams and motivate the unit:

“It goes back to coaching matters. Every team across the NFL, no matter if you are the best team in the NFL on special teams, last or anywhere in between, I think you are always going to have a play here or a play there. You try to limit the mistakes. We went back this past Monday and watched our top punt and kickoff plays, and we watched some plays that we should have done better on. What I tell our guys all the time is, ‘The things you do well, that is our foundation, that is who we are and let’s build on that. The things we haven’t done well we need to correct, and we need to correct it fast, whether it is personnel, technique, scheme, whatever the case may be or a combination thereof.’ At the end of the day, that is my task and our task on special teams to make sure that we limit those mistakes, keep building on the things we do well and help our team win a bunch of games because complementary football, as we talk about all of the time, that is huge. Every time we go out there, it could involve points on field goal or field goal block or big huge chunks of field position on punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return.”


On if the Browns and K Cade York have attempted ‘more than their share’ of long FGs so far this season:

“Anytime you have a rookie kicker, you want to try to limit [long field goal attempts]. (Head) Coach (Kevin Stefanski) and I talked about that when we drafted Cade. It just turned out Week 1 we had to hit a 58-yarder to win the game, the Chargers, we had to attempt a 54-yarder at the end of the game and the 60-yarder at the end of Baltimore. Just the situations we have been in, you don’t want to put your rookie kicker in those situations, but he has come through in some, and in others, he is still growing. I think down the road that will help him. Like I said, I know when New England drafted (former Patriots and NFL K) Stephen Gostkowski years ago, (Patriots Head) Coach (Bill) Belichick, I don’t think they tried a 50-yarder that year, and the reason was because they wanted to make sure that he laid that foundation of confidence. Cade is a unique young man that he can handle those misses and come back like he showed on Monday night.”


On the Patriots not attempting a 50-yard FG in Gostkowski’s first season:

“I don’t know if he tried a 50-yarder that season. You would have to look that one up. I know they purposefully didn’t try a lot of longer field goals. We just have been in situations at the end of the half or at the end of the game where we have had to. It is just a unique situation for us.”


[Note: Gostkowski attempted and made one 50-yard FG during his rookie season in 2016.]


On preparing for tougher weather conditions that will likely be presented during the second half of the season:

“Anytime we have had poor weather, which we have not had a lot of poor weather because like we always talk about Cleveland is God’s country – it has been the last two days, the weather has been perfect. We practice in a lot of good weather. When the team is inside when it is raining and windy, we go outside, and we kick, we punt and we snap. Every Friday, we have wet-ball drills. We take the ball, squirt water on it and we snap, hold and kick, and we do all of the things that we would do in a rainy game. We are always preparing for those type of situations, and we have enough wind around here that we can prepare for the wind, too. Tailwind, crosswind, left or right, headwind or whatever we have, we can practice here at our facility.”


On the impact of temperature on special teams:

“I think warmer weather helps any punter or kicker to be honest with you, but it helps their guys, too. I kind of like our stadium when [the opponents] come in and you don’t kick and punt here a lot and the wind really affects you pregame and during the game and you lose confidence. Like I said, our stadium, we always want that to be a huge homefield advantage for us. The more Cade kicks here, the better he will be, and the more (P) Corey (Bojorquez) punts here, the better he will be, as well.”


On if the Browns are tempted to try to do more on special teams like a fake or block on special teams when not producing as much in the return game:

“At the end of the day, you don’t want to overreact because when you overreact, that is when mistakes get made. You have to believe in the process, believe in the coaching and believe in what we are doing. When the opportunities arise, we have to go out and execute. We have had two penalties this year on kick return. That is what really burns me because those are killers for our offense when we are starting the drive at the 8-, 9- or 12-yard line. We just can’t have those. Other than that, kickoff return has been pretty good. We haven’t had a ton of opportunities. There have been a lot of touchbacks, like there is across the league. When we have had the opportunities, we have done a pretty decent job. You take away those two holding calls, and we have done much better, but unfortunately, you can’t so that is what we have to eliminate. We eliminate the holding calls on KOR, we are in much better shape. Punt return, we just have to get the ball downhill and downfield. (WR) Donovan (Peoples-Jones) had an 11-yarder the other day. He tripped, but he got 11 yards on a line-drive kick, and we were pressuring. The thing we have done a good job of is we have pressured punts all year. We have come close on three. I would like one of those to turn into a block someday, but the more you pressure punters, the more you are going to force line-drive kicks and the better chance you have to get good field position.”


On if the two holding calls on kickoff return impacted the play or if they were away from the return:

“No, they were both at the point of attack. They were both good calls. It was just dumb plays by us.”


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