Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer (11.18.21)


Opening statement:

“Good afternoon. I would like to share some personal news, my daughter, Samantha, got engaged last Friday night. She is my oldest daughter. She got engaged to a young man by the name of Mike Zardis, a good kid and a good family, and he is a Browns fan, which is really cool. So much so that last year in the playoff game, he flew out with my daughter to the Pittsburgh playoff game, and it was his birthday. He is convinced we won the game because it was his birthday (laughter). I am happy for Samantha and Mike and both of our families.


“The other thing I want to talk about is Salute to Service month. We are doing something this week. I got an email and read part of it. What the NFL does and what the Browns do with the support of the military, obviously, being a former military officer, and all of the men and women who have served and continue to serve, I think it is a great thing what the league does and what the teams do. I think it is a really special moment. I do want to point out that two weeks ago, we had a helicopter flyover in Cincinnati, and they timed it perfectly. Last week, the jet flyover was like 30 second late so the helicopters got it right (laughter; ***Note: Priefer flew helicopters as a Naval officer for six years from 1989-94 after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1989. His work included tours of duty on USS America in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea.***).”


On if he knows who will kick for the Lions:

“I do. (Lions K) Riley Patterson will probably be the kicker. They put him on the roster, and (Lions K) Aldrick Rosas, they put him on the practice squad. Riley was a young man who I went down to his Pro Day. He is a very good young player. We actually tried to get him here as a college free agent, and he thought he had a better chance to win the job in Minnesota. He went there and got injured so he did not even kick in the preseason. We actually showed some tape this morning of his surprise onside and his onside kicks at Memphis because we have that college tape. He was with New England’s practice squad, but he has not kicked in the NFL at all, not even in the preseason. He is a good kicker. He has a good leg. He has made some clutch kicks in his career. He is a good kid. Hopefully, his debut will not be a good one because that would be good for us, but he is a good young kicker.”


On his message to WR JoJo Natson after letting a punt bounce last week rather than catching it:

“That is not for everybody to hear (laughter). He has to get to that ball. What happened was we always talk about where to align them. (Special teams assistant) Coach (Doug) Colman, my assistant, he does a great job of lining those guys up. He told him where to line up, and he just kept backing up and backing up. We actually thought it was going to be a line-drive kick. We went over all of the punts the night before on Zoom meetings because we were still in those protocols. We had a really good meeting. We thought we had it set up right. If he is where he is supposed to be, at least fair catch it at 43 yards, but it rolled 23 yards for a 66 net, and that killed us. We put our offense in a bad situation so I was really upset about that. That will be corrected, and hopefully, that will not happen again.”


On if it is harder to shake off a 38-point loss than closer losses:

“I was thinking about that flying home. People always ask, ‘Would you rather lose by three or lose by 38?’ I do not want to lose by any [amount]. You hate to lose. A 38-point loss to a team that we felt we had a chance to beat – I still think that – it was very difficult. I thought the way our Head Coach (Kevin Stefanski) came in Monday, talked to the team and talked to our staff – we had a staff meeting obviously before the team meeting – and said, ‘Hey look, we did not play well. We did not coach well. Give New England credit because they out-played us and out-coached us, but at the end of the day, we have another game coming up, and we are still in the mix. Like I said last week, all of our goals are still in front of us. We just have to go out and play our game and our brand of football, and when we do that, we have a really good chance to win.’”


On the Browns’ desire to return kicks and if that philosophy changes at all after players sustained concussions on back-to-back kickoffs to just get out healthy:

“It does, not just to get out healthy, but anytime one of my guys goes down, that is a tough one because they are good kids, good players and good people. I do not want anybody to get hurt on either side of the ball or either team. That absolutely went into the thinking. You do that, and the next time we kick off, whether it was an onside kick and we were in that situation or just kick it deep and try to get through it because we obviously have the kicker to do that, but they kept kicking to us and we had to keep returning it. We had a couple of decent returns, but overall, we did not help our offense as much as we needed to.”


On if the kickoff philosophy will change moving forward:

“No, those guys will be OK. We just have to do a better job. The one on (CB) A.J. (Green), that was kind of a fluke accident. I think the guy blocked our guy in the back, and obviously, his helmet went into A.J.’s helmet. The one with (WR) Anthony (Schwartz), he has to protect himself better. It is still new to him. Every rep is a new rep. Every rep is a new situation. I have to do a good job of coaching that and making sure that he protects himself better in that situation.”


On Schwartz catching kicks in a non-traditional way:

“(Former NFL WR-KR) Percy Harvin, that is how Percy used to catch it. I am OK with it. If he does not drop it, I am great with that, as long as he can catch it and put it away. We have talked to him about catching it the traditional way. Percy Harvin was one of the greatest guys I have coached, and God bless him, he tried to do it the way I asked him to, but at the end of the day, he just could not. As long as he can hook it in and catch it the same every time, I am OK with that.”


On Lions P Jack Fox:

“He has a big-time leg. He has a great leg. He has been very good at Detroit indoors. Like a lot of young punters, he will struggle at times in cold weather, but he is a big, strong guy. He has great leg strength. When he gets a hold of one, it can really go. Depending on winds, we will figure out where to put our returner, etc. He can also throw the ball. He had a really nice fake against the Rams and threw a perfect little 10-yard hitch route and got a first down. We are preparing for all of the fakes, we are preparing for all of the gadgets and we are preparing for the surprised onside that they have and everything that they do. They are really well coached and they are a good football team.”


On preparing K Chase McLaughlin to kick in challenging elements at FirstEnergy Stadium as the weather begins to turn:

“Chase has a lot of confidence right now. He has had a really good year for us – kickoffs, PATs and field goals. Yesterday was a really good day. Tomorrow will be with the team, but yesterday, we had 10-12 kicks, including a couple that I call ‘mayday’ or hurry-up field goals. He hit one from 63, and it was really windy yesterday. I think he was 12 for 12 and hit one from 63 and a couple others from 50-plus. He really hit the ball well. He hit them with the wind, but the wind was swirling. That is how you prepare. You prepare by practicing in that type of weather. You guys know I send the punter, snapper and kicker down to our stadium. When it gets really bad, we can’t practice out here because of the snow or whatever the case may be, we will send them down to the stadium, and we will keep doing that. He has a lot of confidence right now.”


On how often the Browns specialists go down to the stadium:

“Typically, if we can’t practice out here and we are only practicing indoors, we will send them down to the stadium normally on a Wednesday.”


On how defensive coordinator Joe Woods is handling last week’s loss:

“Joe handles adversity just like any fine coach who handles adversity. I have been around Joe a lot. When he was coaching the secondary at Minnesota when I was the special teams coordinator there, he and I got to know each other really well. I love the way that he works with the players. He has always been a very, very good detail, technique coach. In fact, I used to go into his meetings. On Saturday mornings, I would finish special teams meetings and I would go into his individual meeting and sit there for a half-hour just listening to him coach. Like (offensive line) Coach (Bill) Callahan and other coaches on our staff and other staffs that I have been on, I like being around good coaches because I can learn a lot of how they teach, how they approach things and how they present materials and information. Even though it is different for me than the material and information that I am presenting to my players, it is still the message and how they deliver the message. I think Joe is an outstanding football coach. We have had a lot of really good games. I know he is getting some criticism for some games, but he has done a phenomenal job with our team. Without our defense, we probably would not have won three or four of these games. At the end of the day, he is an outstanding coach. I have a ton of confidence in him, and I know our players do, as well.”


On the Lions returners:

“(Lions WR Kalif) Raymond is really quick. I think he has good speed, maybe not great speed, but he is extremely quick. He can stop on a dime, and that makes it hard because we always talk about long stride, short stride and throttle down under control. If you are not under control at the point of attack with him, he is going to make you miss every single time. They have No. 35 (Lions RB Godwin Igwebuike) and No. 36 (Lions CB Corey Ballentine). Ballentine should be coming back off of IR this week, and he has been a good returner and had some good success with the Jets. No. 35, he does a really good job. They run a middle double 55 scheme. They double both No. 5s. That is a great scheme for him because he is downhill, hard, tough runner, and that is a really good scheme for him. Our challenge will be to stop their type of scheme. They will run left, right and middle and double the No. 5s, and they will run counters off of that. Some of the things that they do to try to keep teams off balance and use his skillset, they do it very, very well.”


On if the Lions are using former Browns and Lions WR KhaDarel Hodge on special teams:

“Yeah, he plays some gunner. He had a penalty last week, and I told him he was not Priefer-trained on that one (laughter). He was the right halfback on their kickoff return team, he bearhugged a guy and got called for holding. I am going to give him a hard time when I see him on Sunday. KhaDarel is a great kid and a good football player. He does not play as much special teams as he did for us. I think he is playing a bit more on offense. He is always going to be a very good gunner for them and really good on kickoff when they use him.”


On P Jamie Gillan bouncing back with stronger performances after a slow start to the season:

“We had an exorcism (laughter). Jamie, he had a couple of really nice punts on Sunday, and one that went out of bounds at the end of the game with 1:30 to go in the game and was not that big of a deal. His consistency is going to be key. I think when Jamie’s back is against the wall, he really does respond well. I think he has been like that probably his whole life. Knowing his story and his background, that is kind of how he has always been. I am proud of the way he has responded. These next several games will be huge for us. You guys keep mentioning the weather at FirstEnergy Stadium. He has done a good job there in the past. He has to do it every rep. If he punts four times on Sunday, we need four really quality reps, and that has to be key for him.”


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