Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer (12.29.22)


Opening statement:

“Hope everybody had a great Christmas. It has been a good work week. Guys have come back in to work this week, and they have done a nice job with their attitude and effort. Meetings have been good. Practice was really good and spirited yesterday – a little bit shorter practice but it was warmer so that had a lot to do with probably the enthusiasm. Obviously, we are where we are at, and I know our Head Coach (Kevin Stefanski) has talked about our record and he has answered your questions there. I think the biggest for our guys is that every time we come into the building, whether it is for practice, for meetings or we go to the stadium whatever stadium we are playing in, we are being evaluated – players, coaches and everybody. Our job is to prepare like we always do. Our job is to go out and help this football teams win a game on Sunday afternoon at Washington. That is how we have approached it, and our guys have done a great job with that so far this week.”


On evaluating the Browns special team’s performance at this point of the season:

“This week, the focus is on the Washington Commanders. At the end of the season, we will go back and reflect on the entire year and what we have done. I think we have played really well lately. We had our spots early on good and bad. I think I am really pleased with the direction we are going in, I think we are only going to get better and I am excited about the challenge this week.”


On how K Cade York can improve consistency during the offseason:

“I think that is what it is. I think he has to really focus on his focus. His approach to every kick has to be the same to every kick over and over and over again. As he grows, matures and continues to get stronger and better, I think that will come with more reps and more experience.”


On if there is someone the team has particularly in mind for York to work with during the offseason:

“Like a lot of guys that come into the league – punters and kickers – he does have a coach who he has been working with since high school that does a great job with him so he will just continue working with him.”


On how York has performed in recent weeks, including last week in challenging weather conditions:

“I love the way he approached last week. I loved the way he, (LS) Charley (Hughlett), (P) Corey (Bojorquez), our returners and really all of the special teams approached the difficulties of the weather with both teams playing in it obviously. His pregame was really good. It wasn’t too big for him. I saw him grow up right before my very eyes on Saturday afternoon during pregame. I loved the way he approached that game. I know he just had the two opportunities, and he did a good job with both of them. Kicking here is not easy. It will never be easy; I don’t care if it is in August, December or January. I really like the way he approached it, and I was proud of the way he has approached our stadium all year long. Does he have room for improvement and room for growth? Absolutely. So does Corey, and Corey has really been punting the ball well. Charley has been snapping the ball well. Our returners have done a nice job with the different type of conditions that we have had this year. We just have to keep going in that direction and keep working to get better.”


On what impressed him about York’s pregame warmups last week:

“Just his approach to it. I think he missed one where the wind he had no idea. It was into the Dawg Pound and who knows what the wind was doing. He hit a really good ball, and it just kind of faded right or faded left. I can’t remember which way it went. He kind of looked back and smiled, and he goes, ‘I hit a good ball.’ I said, ‘That is all you can do.’ Really when (former Browns and NFL K) Phil (Dawson) talked to him back after he was drafted, Phil said that into the Dawg Pound, you just have to hit a true ball. When you approach it that way, you have more chances of making it than you do missing it because you never know what you are going to get down there at that end of the stadium. I saw him approach it that way with a great attitude and a great mindset. He didn’t freak out because he missed one in pregame. He just went out and nailed the next one.”


On if earlier in the season York responded differently when missing a kick in pregame warmups:

“He was pretty tough on himself. He is always very hard on himself in terms of his technique and what he needs to do to be more consistent. I just felt that he didn’t get too worked up about it because of the conditions and because he knows there are just some things that you can’t control. You just have to go out, hit the best ball you can and hope for the best, especially on a day like last Saturday.”


On if York’s mental fortitude provides the team confidence that York can continue to improve for next season:

“One hundred percent. We knew that when we drafted him. He has a great mental approach to the game and that this stadium is not for everybody. This city and this division is not for everybody. That is why the four kickers in this division there are four really good ones. Even (Steelers K) Chris Boswell, who I think is a great kicker, missed two last week in Pittsburgh in the difficult conditions. You have to be mentally tough to kick and punt in this division. I know he has that.”


On if the Browns have seen how RB Jerome Ford’s ability as a kickoff returner could translate to offense:

“We drafted him to be a running back. He has just done a nice job on special teams, whether it be coverage or he is on our punt return unit as a hold-up guy. He has done a nice job there. You guys have seen the growth he has had as a kickoff returner. It is funny, he had three returns the other day – two were outstanding and one was OK, but the OK was my favorite return because he came up on a short kick, he slid to his left to catch the ball square and going forward, set it and if we finish a block, we are out to the 35-yard line again. He did such a great job doing everything that we have been asking him to do and everything that he has really worked on in practice, walkthrough and spending extra time with me watching tape and just the little nuances of being a good kickoff returner. I have seen him grow a lot. Whether or not he plays a lot of offense, obviously I don’t determine that, but I would love to keep him as our kickoff returner going forward because he has really shown that he can do that at this level.”


On goals when evaluating younger Browns special teams players in the final two games:

“Pretty much what we look for all year. We have had a lot of guys off the practice squad for three weeks. (LB) Tae Davis was up for three weeks, and now he is back on practice squad. We had (S) Mike Brown up for three weeks [and now he is back] on practice squad. (LB) Jermaine Carter (Jr.) was up for three weeks, then he was down [on practice squad] and now he is back up [on the active roster]. We are asking these guys to prepare like they always prepare. I told them earlier in the week, let’s play for yourself, play for the name on the back of your jersey and your family and play for each other. I think when you approach it that way and understand we have to finish strong as a team… I know our Head Coach has done a phenomenal job of team building through thick and through thin, through adversity and through good times, and when you have that foundation, you are only going to get better. From these young guys, I expect them to prepare and play just like we have been asking them to prepare and play all year long. I am excited about the last two weeks. Anytime you get the opportunity… I am going to be extremely sad when it is over, but these last two weeks I am really fired up for the opportunity that our guys have to go out, excel and continue to get better and continue to be evaluated in a positive light.”


On who have been the most reliable, prolific Browns special teams players this season outside of K, P and LS:

“(LB) Jordan (Kunaszyk) has done a great job. (S) D’Anthony Bell has done a great job. (LB) Tony Fields (II) in the certain roles that he has played for us has done a really nice job. Taki (LB Sione Takitaki) was doing a nice job until he got hurt, and you miss guys like him. (CB) A.J. Green has stepped up and played well. Jerome Ford and (RB) D’Ernest Johnson. We have had a lot of guys play a lot of different roles, and they never bat an eye. Like Tony Fields, I have moved him to different spots on punt team all year long, and he doesn’t blink. A lot of guys would be, ‘I can’t play on the left side,’ or ‘I can’t play on the right wing.’ He has played everywhere, and he has excelled at each one of those spots. I am really proud of the way our guys have bought in all season long. I expect that from them these last two weeks, and we have already got it from them this week. Like I said, I am excited about the challenge on Sunday.”


On WR Donovan Peoples-Jones splitting time between WR and PR:

“It is amazing. He has really taken a big step forward for us when we lost (WR) Jakeem (Grant Sr.) in camp. Jerome stepped up at kickoff returner. Donovan has stepped up and been our consistent punt returner. I am really proud of the way he has handled it. He has always been a pro. He has always been mature. He is a very mature young man. I am really proud of the way he has accepted his role one special teams as well as being one of our top-tier receivers. I think he has done a great job for us this year.”


On how Grant is progressing with rehab:

“I can’t speak to the medical part of it, but I know he is working hard and I know he is chomping at the bit to get back. He says he could play this year (laughter), but I just love his attitude and effort. He is high enthusiasm. That is why he and I get along so well.”


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