Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer (11.4.21)

Opening statement:

“Good afternoon. Before I get started, I wanted to give a shoutout to a friend of mine named Mark Zardis. Mark lives out in Denver. My daughter Samantha’s boyfriend, Mike, it is his father. He is in the hospital, and I wanted to let him know that I am thinking about him and praying for he, Sandra and their family. A big Browns fan. A big Browns supporter. I hope he is doing well.”


On the contingency plans if the team was in a similar situation like Pittsburgh last week with no kicker:

“(P) Jamie (Gillan), remember we tried one against the Jets last year late in the first half, but yeah, Jamie would be our field goal kicker, (QB) Case (Keenum) would probably be the holder and then (LS) Charley (Hughlett) would be the snapper.”


On the contingency plan if something happened to Gillan and K Chase McLaughlin during a game:

“Then we would go for two or do what Pittsburgh did – go for two and probably go for it on fourth down.”


On if anyone other than McLaughlin kicks off at practice:

“Jamie kicked off during training camp. This time of year because it is a long season, he would be fine. He kicked a few into the net. If we needed him to, he would be OK.”


On DT Jordan Elliott’s hit on Steelers K Chris Boswell:

“I thought he did a great job getting over there. I was worried about Boswell running. He led with his hands. It was a pretty aggressive hit, but they did not flag it. It was a good play by him. I thought he did a great job of getting over there. I hope Chris is OK. I like Chris. He is a good kid. That put him in a tough spot.”


On the Browns being alert to stop the Steelers’ fake FG attempt:

“(LB) Anthony (Walker Jr.) did a great job. It is an easy check for us any time they motion. I think we are pretty sound. I am not sure why they ran it. We are pretty sound in what we do, and it was a pretty easy check for us. I thought the guys did a great job of reacting to the situation at hand just like we did against the Giants last year when they broke the formation. The Steelers ran a fake three years ago in Denver – not exactly the same thing, but every time we play Pittsburgh, I show that fake. It is just be on high alert because Chris Boswell can throw the ball so we are always alert for stuff like that.”


On the decision of what fake play to run on special teams if one is called:

“It would be something we worked on in practice that (Head) Coach (Kevin Stefanski) and I would discuss during the week. On gameday, it is always his decision. It is always the head coach’s decision. I would never do anything obviously without his approval, if it is something that we would run then.”


On if he helps determine which particular fake to run in the flow of the game:

“Sure, absolutely. Again, it is something that we would discuss during the week and go from there.”


On what indicated the Steelers were likely running a fake FG last week:

“The wing went in motion. The wing on our right side, as soon as he took his first step, Anthony checked to our base check, which was a pretty simple call. Like I said, a lot of times, you do not know if you are always going to get the exact check that you want, but we made it pretty easy and we coached him up that this was a possibility. Anthony did a great job of getting everybody in position.”


On if he noticed that the snap took a long time, given comments by the Steelers about the timing of it:

“No. I saw the guy go in motion. I saw Anthony check to our base check and defense check. Guys lined up, and we just have to go play ball. You never want them to fake it because there is always a possibility that something bad can happen for us, but we did a great job covering it. It was a good play.”


On if he is concerned the WR Odell Beckham Jr. situation could potentially divide the team:

“I do not think so. I think we have a bunch of pros in our locker room. I think that whatever decision was made was for the best interest of the Cleveland Browns. We are laser focused, and that is really all we are thinking about is the Cincinnati Bengals.”


On the challenge Stefanski faces to help ensure the situation with Beckham situation does not become a distraction that impacts the team:

“I think Kevin has done a nice job as a leader of the coaching staff and of our football team. Like I said, the guys in the locker room, we have a bunch of professional football players who really know what their job is and what the task at hand for the Cleveland Browns this week against the Cincinnati Bengals, a very, very good football team on the road. That is where our concern is.”


On the Browns entering a significant point of the season with a 4-4 record:

“When the guys came in Monday, we watched the tape from the Steelers game special team-wise. Before I started the meeting, I mentioned we still have a very good football team, and all of our goals are still in front of us. We just made it a little bit harder on ourselves. Coming in Wednesday and getting locked in, yesterday for us was punt and kickoff and today is punt return and kickoff return. Tomorrow we have field goal and field goal block and some of their core phases. We just go about our business, come in, be professionals as coaches and players, do your job at a high level and prepare for this football game. That is exactly where our focus is.”


On what makes the Bengals good on special teams:

“I think their special teams coordinator is outstanding. I think (Bengals special teams coordinator) Darren Simmons, who is normally a friend of mine – there are two weeks here he is not a friend of mine – but Darrin does a great job and has good players. They draft well. They drafted that young kicker – I think (Bengals K) Evan McPherson is a very good young kicker. They have a veteran snapper and a veteran punter. They have two god returners. I think Darrin puts those guys in positions to be successful. I think he is a very good coach. I think they put a lot of emphasis on special teams, like the good teams in this league do. Obviously, we have a great challenge head of us.”


On RB Demetric Felton taking a punt return sideways last week when it appeared there was room in front to make a play:

“There were a couple of guys we did a poor job blocking on the right side. It was a right return. We did not do a great job on the gunner. We did OK, and the guy that we lost, I think the guard and tackle on our right side we did not do a good enough job of blocking him. Should he get downhill, maybe a little bit more, but there was not a whole lot of room there. I do not blame him.”


On WR Anthony Schwartz and RB John Kelly Jr. fighting over a kickoff return last week:

“The ball was in the air for about an hour. It seemed like they had a long, long discussion about who was going to return that one. That was a big play. To me, coming out of that game, obviously very disappointed we lost, but the opportunity we had to make a big play because their kicker was out and their punter was not a great kickoff guy, the opportunity we had there to get a big play was disappointing. There was supposedly communication there, and I believe one guy said he did not hear the other guy said, ‘I said it.’ We would like John Kelly to block in that situation. If we do, they are squeezing. With Anthony’s speed, we might pop that thing out to the right, which we should have.”


On if the kick return game has to be better:

“Oh, sure. I do not know where we rank or anything, but I know we have not had a lot of opportunities. The opportunities that we have had, we have not done good enough to be honest with you. I think we have a good young kickoff returner who is still learning. He is smart. He wants to make good decisions. We put him in a lot of different situations in meetings, in practice and in walkthroughs, and we talk about a lot of things. Until he gets that experience, he will not be a great returner in this league. He has the ability to be a very, very good returner, Anthony Schwartz. Until he gets a lot more reps under his belt, we are not going to see his best football quite yet, but we are getting there.”    


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