Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer (12.15.21)

Opening statement:

“We have been here before. The great thing about this organization is there is always a contingency plan from (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew (Berry) to (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski) and to everybody so it is the next man up scenario that we had a year ago. Our guys were locked in this morning. We had really good meetings – O, D and special teams. We will come in here this afternoon for that split walkthrough that you guys know about. To be safe, we will keep everybody separated as much as we can, and hopefully, we will not have any more positives and we will get ready to go win this game on Saturday afternoon.”


On if there is a sense of worry that more individuals could be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list later this week:

“I do not know if you sit here worried. I am a pretty positive-attitude guy. We are hoping that there will not be any more. That was the goal yesterday, and we had a few more today, unfortunately. Hopefully, the tide has stopped, and we can go into the game with the guys we have. We are going to bring up some guys from the practice squad – some guys who are not used to playing a lot of football are going to have to go out and play a lot of football, but that is why they are here. Our practice squad is more of a developmental-type squad, not just out there for practice for bodies. We bring guys in here who we think have a chance to help us win some day, and especially in the age of COVID, you always have to have that contingency, as well, when you do sign a young man to the practice squad.”


On how the Browns’ experience with similar situations last year benefits the team this week:

“I think anytime you are in this situation, you have been through it before and you know what worked before. You always learn from the good and the bad. Because we are so organized here, we have a plan for pretty much everything. We just try to follow that blueprint and prepare for this game as best we can with the time that we have. We have played a lot of football this year so far so our guys know how to play the game. We know our gameplans are going to be geared to beat the Las Vegas Raiders. The quicker our guys pick this up, the better off we are going to be, and utilize the time between now and Saturday afternoon. We have plenty of time to get ready, and we will be ready.”


On balancing his role as special teams coordinator with the potential of also being the acting head coach on Saturday:

“(Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski will be the head coach up until kickoff. He is going to handle all of that like he always does and like he did a year ago. My job is made pretty easy. We have great coordinators. We have a great staff. We have a team that is resilient and that arrives to the challenge like we did a year ago. I think the game management stuff I will review again with (Browns director of football research and strategy) Dave Giuliani. Dave and I have already talked. He has given me a list of stuff I have to review – the same thing we did last year. We met for hours last year before that Pittsburgh playoff game, and we will again this week and make sure that we are all o the same page. I know the lingo and terminology, and I just trust that (defensive coordinator) Joe (Woods) and AVP (offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt) will do a great job calling the game, and we will do a great job on special teams. That is the plan.”


On the number of players placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list that impact special teams units:

“Several. Obviously, anytime if a safety goes down, a linebacker goes down, a defensive end goes down, a running back goes down, a wide receiver or any of that stuff, it is all affected. That is a good question because I was doing the depth charts for tomorrow’s practice, and we are planning on having a full practice tomorrow – we are hoping. We are going to work on all six special teams phases and work on offense and defense. When I am doing the depth charts, it is typical like having an injury. If a running back gets hurt, (RB) D’Ernest Johnson moves up and then backup running back and next running back up becomes a starter or more of a factor on special teams. It is like gameday, but you have a few more days to plan for it. We are going to give everybody ready who needs to get ready, and we should have plenty of guys who are prepared to play the game to help us win.”


On if RB Demetric Felton will get more opportunities as a returner, if WR JoJo Natson is unavailable this week:

“He will be ready. D’Ernest will be ready. (WR) Donovan (Peoples-Jones) will be ready. Those guys will be ready. (WR) Ja’Marcus Bradley has some return ability so he will be up, as well. We will get him ready, as well.”


On if there is anything in particular he will do differently if he is the acting head coach this week compared to last year’s AFC Divisional Round game against the Steelers:

“I will not challenge the pass that was caught at the knees like I did last year. That was the dumbest challenge in the history of the league so I will not do that, I promise.”


On if it is somewhat alarming that Stefanski tested positive, even after receiving the booster shot:

“I am not alarmed by it. It does not surprise me. It has been insanity since almost two years now. I just kind of roll with the punches. That is all you can do. If I get alarmed by it, then I will not be able to do my job at a high level.”


On if he will be running the practices this week:

“It will just be the one tomorrow. I would imagine yes.”


On potential concerns about the Browns’ ability to be prepared for Saturday if the team is unable to host a full practice tomorrow:

“I think the mental part, they will be more than ready. Like I said, Alex, Joe and myself will go a great job of getting our guys ready and getting them in the right spots. If this was Week 1 or 2, it would be different, but it is our 14th game and Week 15. Because we have so much football under our belt, I am not as concerned about the physical part of it, but you would like obviously to have a practice before you go out and play.”


On confidence in Browns practice squad players’ ability to step up and play on Saturday:

“Several of those guys who will be elevated have already played in games, either a COVID elevation or practice squad elevation before. Those guys will be ready. The guys that we have, they are in every special teams meeting. They pay attention. They get coached. We coach them on the show teams when we watch tape. We will coach the show team guys – obviously, not as much as the guys who are on the regular units. They understand their role. I think they will relish that role. They are excited about the role, and they will be ready.”


On if there are any consistencies with K Chase McLaughlin’s missed kicks:

“The only thing I can tell you is that I think he needs to keep his head down a little bit longer and follow through towards his target a little bit more. That is something we have talked about kind of the last few weeks. I do not believe he did that one the one he missed [against the Ravens]. That is one that we have to have in the fourth quarter, which would have made it an 18-point game. That was a big miss, and he needs to make those.”


On the philosophy of having LBs on the hands team during the onside kick last week against the Ravens:

“I am not outing anybody out there who does not have good enough hands to recover a kick, but you need bodies out there to protect from whoever has the ball – usually, it is a tight end. We had (TE Austin) Hooper on one side. We had Donovan on the other. It is a big receiver or tight end. (FB) Andy (Janovich) recovered two onside kicks last year. I trust him fully. He will be out there again this week. He understands what he did. We always talk about if you can recover that ball right after you make a quick decision, grab it and go down. If it is too high or too fast or if it is a bad bounce, get out of the way and go block. He did not do either, and he knows that. We talked about it. We showed him this morning, and that should never happen. I think we were aligned perfectly. We spent a lot of time in the offseason making sure we had the right alignments and spent a lot of time with Coach Stefanski – we spent hours – on the best way to handle that with the new rule. That was not a factor at all. We were aligned perfectly. We just did not execute the play. I do want to add – I know people might have mentioned the hands team playing the field goal – up until that point, I thought we played really well on teams. We covered kicks extremely well. We kept the ball out of the punt returner’s hand. We made four other kicks. The play that JoJo made was a phenomenal play. Janovich had a great play on the mortar kick. We handled all of those situations extremely well. We had two bad plays that we cannot have. In order to put away a good football team, you can’t make those mistakes. Up until that point, I thought we played pretty well.”


On QB Case Keenum potentially starting against the Raiders after QB Baker Mayfield was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list:

“I feel bad for Baker. He is the leader of this football team as our quarterback. Losing him hurt. The great thing about Case is that he is an amazing young man. I have known Case a long time. We were together in Minnesota. He has always stepped up to the occasion when his name was called. He has always been there. He led us to the playoffs in Minnesota. I think we ended up 13-3 that year, and he was our quarterback for all but one game, I think. He filled in against the Broncos and did a phenomenal job. Thank God we have Case Keenum – I will be honest with you – because if you had a real young quarterback, an inexperienced quarterback, it might be tougher. Case is going to run the gameplan exactly how it should be run, and I know the whole team has confidence in him.”


On his confidence in offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt as the offensive play caller for Saturday’s game, including Van Pelt’s experience last year during the AFC Divisional Round against the Steelers:

“I think both the defense in (defensive coordinator) Coach (Joe) Woods and the offense in Coach Van Pelt and everybody should be extremely confident going in. We forced a bunch of turnovers. We had a great gameplan on defense. We had a great gameplan on offense. I thought we had a great gameplan on special teams. We went out and executed a game against a really good football team that at one point had been 12-0 last year. We all have confidence in each other. I think we have an outstanding staff from top to bottom. I am looking forward to the challenge. Hopefully, Kevin will be OK for Saturday, but if not, we will be ready to roll.”


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