Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer (11.17.22)


Opening statement:

“Going into it, obviously it is going to be windy, snowy, cold and all of that good stuff. Not only that, but we have our work cut out for us. The Buffalo Bills are outstanding on special teams. They have played well all year. They have two of the better gunners in the league in No. 33 (Bills CB Siran Neal) and No. 25 (Bills RB Taiwan Jones). They have an excellent punt returner they traded for a few weeks ago in (Bills RB Nyhiem) Hines who came from Indy. He has done a nice job for them already. They put (Bills RB) Duke (Johnson Jr.) back there on kickoff return the other day and did some good things. He had a nice 43-yard return. He has great vision and runs hard. I think I worked with him that one training camp in 2019. We were trying to make him a kickoff returner because he has that ability. (Bills K) Tyler Bass is kicking the ball well for them, and (Bills P) Sam Martin has done a nice job coming from Denver to be their punter. A very good team, very well coached and they play hard. Excited about the opportunity. Don’t know obviously about the weather, the venue or anything like that. No updates for us. I guarantee I will be the last one to know (laughter). We are preparing for the cold, the wind and the snow. Showed our guys some tape yesterday on some old snow games either in Buffalo, Baltimore or games that I was a part of when I was with the Vikings. Just talking about different stuff. Obviously, we can’t experience it – it is not really snowing hard enough outside – but we can talk about certain situations and how we would react and the things kind of a pregame checklist that we will go through to be prepared for that game.”


On preparing K Cade York kick for tough weather conditions:

“We have had plenty of wind here. Yesterday was cold. He kicked out in the cold. Tomorrow he will kick again, and I am sure it will be cold. The wind, he has dealt with before. We have talked about he doesn’t kick a lot on turf because obviously we play most of our games on grass so we will get him some turf work inside, but obviously, it is not as effective because it is going to be wet, cold and snowy turf that we are playing on. I think pregame for Cade will be big. Talked about the shoes, the plant foot and those sorts of things that we always talk about with the specialists.”


On if P Corey Bojorquez has any insight on kicking in Highmark Stadium as a former Bill:

“He does. He has done a nice job. We have talked about it all week starting on Monday. You talk about where the winds come from out of one tunnel going through the other tunnel where he liked to kick the ball when it was windy. Talking to Cade about the certain nuances about the wind in that stadium. It has been very beneficial having Corey’s experience there.”


On starting last week’s game with a long kick return:

“Miami, that was great. That is complementary football at its finest. We had the big return, and we score four plays later, kick the extra point, kick off and we down them at the 16-yard line. We need to do more of that, whether it is to start the first half, second half or any time during the game. We preach complementary football all of the time, and that worked out really well for us to start the game last week.”


On RB Jerome Ford getting kick return opportunities after the 48-yarder to open the game:

“They did. They actually kicked to him two more times he returned it. The one toward the end of the first half, we didn’t block it up well enough, and then the last one, he took out from about two deep, but we were trying to be aggressive, trying to get a spark for our offense to go.”


On Ford opening the game with a 48-yard kick return and the significance of providing a spark in the return game:

“We thought that from the beginning since we drafted him, knowing that he did not have the experience in college because he was such an obviously great running back in college that they didn’t use him in that spot, but we are going to use the best athletes in the best spots that we can. Jerome has really embraced that role. He has made some mistakes early int he year in terms of decision making, but he has improved there a lot. We talk about it all of the time. He comes up to my office, and we work extra two or three times a week to make sure he understands the different types of kicks, different types of returns and different types of situations that these guys are put in. The more he does it, the better he will get.”


On if the Browns talked about Ford as a potential kick returner early in the process of acquiring Ford, given Ford didn’t do it in college, or if it was more a matter of finding a way to get Ford on the field:

“Probably both. Back in training camp, (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski and I spoke a lot about the whole roster. When it came to Jerome, we were both thinking, ‘Hey, could he be a kickoff returner for us?’ We both believe he can.”


On if Ford could also ultimately become a punt returner:

“Maybe. He has good quickness, but I don’t know if he has that quick-twitch ability that you are looking for in a punt returner. We are going to go baby steps. We are going to go kickoff returner first and then kind of go from there.”


On if there are aspects to stress with York kicking in tough conditions, in addition to monitoring the wind and pregame warmups, like taking shorter steps:

“I don’t think shorter steps. Controlled steps. I think you have to be very under control. You don’t want to really swing really too hard. You don’t want that plant foot to slip in terms of kickoffs and field goals for that matter. I think with him it has to be hit a true ball. The ball contact has to be good. He has to cut through that wind with that good end-and-over-end ball. He might have to play the wind a little bit more, which we worked on yesterday and did a nice job for us. Those are the sorts of things. Ultimately, you don’t want to overthink a whole lot. Don’t think too much because that will end up paralyzing him. He is a really smart kid and he understands his craft so well that you don’t want him to overthink those kicks.”


On if there may be more kickoff returns this week due to the tough weather conditions that could limit touchbacks:

“Maybe. Yeah. Sure. They have challenged teams all year. They have covered 26 kickoffs this year. They are not a touchback [team]. They are not worried about anybody. They cover very well, and Bass is doing a good job of kicking off for them. We expected to get returns anyway because they challenge teams.”


On discussing tough weather conditions with York, who could ultimately be kicking in a dome with limited experience in that environment:

“No, but those are ideal conditions for a kicker or punter. It would be like kicking down in Texas for him with no wind.”


On if York will need to try new cleats if kicking in heavy snow:

“I think he will take some different cleats with him to try them out in pregame to see how they feel, especially on the turf.”


On the key to a strong pregame warmup this Sunday and if the warmup would be longer than usual:

“We would just in case. We want to take our time. We want to make sure that he feels very comfortable – both he and (P) Corey (Bojorquez) and (LS) Charley (Hughlett) for that matter – and our returners that they feel confident in what our gameplan is depending on which way the winds are going. We have crosswind, you have headwind, you have tailwind, you have snow or whatever. I think the few extra minutes would definitely help.”


On if he has been able to see York become more consistent with kicks in the wind:

“Yesterday, I think he took a big step forward in terms of how to kick that true ball every time because you don’t want to kick a fade ball, a draw ball or you don’t want a different swing every time. I think you want to believe in the process, believe in your ball strike and believe in your follow through and then play the wind a little bit that way. That is a good question because it is exactly what he did yesterday.”


On if he likes when weather elements impact a game:

“It doesn’t matter to me. I just throw on whatever is in my locker, and I stay warm. I think it is a challenge. Buffalo plays in cold weather all the time. We play in cold weather a lot, too. I think it will be fun. I think it is an advantage when you play teams that comes from the south or come from domed stadiums that when you come into a cold, windy situation that is where we have the advantage. This week, neither team would have the advantage, I wouldn’t think.”


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