Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer (12.31.21)

Opening statement:

“Obviously, coming off of two tough losses. Our focus this week has been getting back on the right track. Guys came in motivated this week. It was a good practice yesterday. We had one good practice earlier in the week and then got into kind of a normal Wednesday schedule yesterday. Excited about the opportunity, and we will see what the next few days holds.”


On K Chase McLaughlin returning from the reserve/COVID-19 list and K Chris Naggar’s missed PAT against the Packers:

“It is hard for any position group when you lose a guy and you lose your starter the day before the game. Chase felt real sick Thursday night last week, came in Friday and tested positive and then we lost him for the game. We felt confident in Chris. He just did not have a ton of reps obviously with the first team because we are always trying to get our starters the reps. We only have limited reps every week. That is not excuse. We have to make that extra point. It was a nice night. He had missed one in exactly the same spot earlier in pregame. We thought we had it corrected. He ended up correcting it on the next field goal, but he can’t miss at PAT. When you bring up an emergency kicker, the expectation is at least make PATs, especially on a nice night.”


On getting McLaughlin back on track after a few missed FGs in recent weeks:

“He came back yesterday. Obviously, he came off the [reserve/COVID-19] list yesterday and practiced yesterday. He hit the ball really well. We will have another field goal session tomorrow. He hit the kickoffs well. That is what we worry about when you come off of an illness like that or any illness – you worry about the leg strength, the stamina and all of that stuff – but he hit the kickoffs very well yesterday. We had a side field goal session that he hit the ball really well so I am very confident in Chase.”


On the Browns signing K Chris Blewitt to the practice squad:

“Chris came in in March and worked out for us. He did a real nice job so he has always been on our emergency list. I know he kicked for Washington earlier this year. We felt like he was the best emergency option going forward.”


On the decision process to replace Naggar with Blewitt on the Browns practice squad:

“Like I said, he has to make that PAT. I think if he makes the PAT, makes the field goal and hits the other PAT, he is probably still here. I am sure we would still go with Chase because he is our starter, but at the end of the day, your expectation is always to make a PAT on a nice night, regardless of how much experience you have had. It is a 33-yard field goal. The snap was perfect. The hold was perfect. The protection was excellent. He has to make that kick. At the end of the day, you are always trying to upgrade your roster no matter what the position is, and we felt like Chris Blewitt was the best option going forward as the emergency kicker.”


On why punt return TDs are down across the NFL this season:

“I think we have talked about this before. The punters in this league are making it more difficult. There are a lot of punters who have the ability to, if you have a vice on one side, they kick to the single-press gunner side, if there are seven in the box, and that obviously helps the gunner to that side cover. The hit-and-roll punts that a lot of these punters are pretty good at, we have had a few this year where you have a 38-yarder in the air with less than perfect hangtime, and the ball hits and rolls 15 yards. We have had those against us, and we have had those for us. I think there are more of those this year if you look around the league. Quite frankly, the punters are better. When they do hit a good ball, it is the hangtime and the distance. These guys have big-time legs. I think when there are a lot of plus-50 punts, which I think you are seeing around the league, too, and the offense is stalling around the 50, I do now know what the starts are, but those are very hard to return for a touchdown. In fact, one of the touchdowns that Chicago had, he caught the ball around the 2-yard line and went 98 yards. I think those are all factors that play into that statistic.”


On where the Browns offense potentially needed to reach before considering a FG attempt with Naggar at the end of the Packers game:

“I think probably closer to the 30 than anything. It was not really discussed. We were trying to go down and (Head) Coach (Kevin) Stefanski has talked about wanting to go down and not put it in his hands or on his foot but to go down and score a touchdown to win the game there. I think that was his focus, and I completely understand that, given that he is a young player who already missed a PAT. He was confident. I will give Chris Naggar a lot of credit. He was confident. His attitude was right. He had the right mentality to go kick that game-winner, and I wish we would have had that chance because I think he would have made it.”


On the Browns waiving P Jamie Gillan:

“I think any time where you are in that situation with a young man you have been around for nearly three years, it is hard. I like Jamie as a person. He is a fine young man. He has worked extremely hard. I still think he has an opportunity to punt in this league. I think he is very talented. We felt like we needed the best option to help us make the playoffs going down the stretch. We needed more consistency from that position. Hopefully, we will get that here in the last couple games and help us get in the playoffs. That was the reason behind it. I have no ill-will towards Jamie. He gave us everything he had. Like I said, he became a really good holder – I have said that before. He has a big-time leg, he is talented and I am sure he will punt again in this league.”  


On his expectation for the atmosphere at Heinz Field on Monday in what is potentially the final home game of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger’s career:

“I know Pittsburgh and Cleveland have been rivals forever, but their fans are a lot alike. They are extremely passionate like our fans. Ben has been their quarterback for 18 years, and he has won a lot of games for them. They are passionate about him and their Steelers so I am sure the atmosphere because of the crowd noise is going to be much different than we had last year. I am excited about going back there. Hopefully, we will know by that point if we control our own destiny, and hopefully, we will. We have to do one day at a time. We have to have a great practice today. We have had good meetings this morning. We will have a good practice today and walkthrough and continue to improve and get better and get our guys that do not have a ton of reps. We still have guys moving around because of the virus, bringing guys off the street or practice squad. We have to continue working to get guys ready to play this game. Obviously, it is Pittsburgh-Cleveland, and it is always a big game no matter the records, but hopefully, there is a little more something to it. I know it will be because of the situation with their quarterback.”


On the challenges with the Browns not controlling their own destiny at this point in the season as it relates to reaching the postseason:

“If you are a competitive guy – we have competitive coaches and competitive players – we always want to be able to be in control. Like all of us, we are human, we want to be in control of that situation. What we can control is to prepare. What we can control is to go out and win this game on Monday night. That is going to be our singular focus. Coach Stefanski says all of the time, ‘Go 1-0 this week.’ That is all we can control. No matter what happens, we have to go win this game. That is our job is to finish strong here in the last two games of the season, finish 9-8 and see where the rest of it takes us.”


On why Gillan was not able to build off of a strong rookie season:

“I have said it before, his rookie year he punted a ton. We did not move the ball as well. We punted a lot. We got into a certain rhythm. When you play on a better team or a better offensive team, like last year and this year, we have had a lot of games where we only punted two or three times. It is hard for a young punter to get into rhythm. That is no excuse. He still needs to be more consistent. That was kind of our focus this year based off of last year when he was not as consistent, and he was just up and down. Do I think he is still a good punter? Absolutely. We just knew we needed a little bit more from that position going down the stretch.”


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