Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer (12.8.22)


Opening statement:

“Obviously, coming off two wins in a row. We are playing pretty good football right now. We need to go down to Cincinnati, who is playing extremely well and won four games in a row since they played us late in October. A big challenge. Another good special teams unit. A well-coached unit. Coach Simm (Bengals special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons) has been there a long time. I told our guys this week that Coach Simm was a close friend of mine until I came to Cleveland – now we can’t be friends anymore (laughter). I do respect him. I think he does a great job down there.”


On if he ran the full 76 yards with WR Donovan Peoples-Jones during the punt return TD:

“No, I don’t do that. First of all, I am way too old; I would probably pull a muscle (laughter). Honestly, I have always done this any time our guys have scored a touchdown, first thing I look for are for flags, and then the second thing I look for is I look for the head coach to see if he wants to go for one or two. Once I got the one signal, put the field goal team out there, making sure because they are celebrating and our guys are celebrating and our offensive linemen run on the field celebrating and of course the play clock is still running, kick the PAT and then I have to get the kickoff ready so we go ‘bang-bang-bang’. There is no time to celebrate.”


On Peoples-Jones saying the punt return was designed to go to the right and the execution of the return:

“It was. He did a really good job. You can’t block everybody because we are going to double both gunners like we did on that play. It was fourth-and-longer. I want to give the defense credit. They have forced 16 punts in the last two games. That is why our return game has had more opportunities, and we have done a nice job with those opportunities. When you force teams to punt like our defense has been doing the last two games, you are going to have more and more opportunities in the return game. That has really helped us. We did a great job on the gunners. Donovan did a great job making the two guys miss at the point of attack and kind of had an escort down the sideline. It was a pretty cool play.”


On WR Jaelon Darden being claimed and Darden having punt return experience the week after Peoples-Jones’ punt return TD:

“We are always looking to improve the roster. (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew (Berry), (Head Coach) Kevin (Stefanski) and I, we talked about that. Any time you have a player with Jaelon’s ability, you are always looking to improve the roster. That has nothing to do obviously with Donovan. Donovan is doing a great job. I am not looking to swap anybody out. I just think Jaelon for the future… Donovan plays a lot of offense. He plays darn near every snap on offense. At some point, he is going to get tired. At some point, he is going to need a break. Jaelon provides that ability to be a really good dual returner for us, if need be.


On Peoples-Jones maintaining balance on the punt return TD:

“Yeah, he did a great job. He is such a great athlete. Once he gets rolling, we all know how fast he is. He had the young man that (S) Mike Brown was blocking and did a great job and kind of pushed him by the play, and the guy just kind of swiped at his foot. Donovan kept his balance. Obviously, it was a great play.”


On what Peoples-Jones offers on punt return:

“Donovan had experience at Michigan and did a pretty good job. I think he had one 50-yarder his senior year so we knew he had the ability once he got going. He is not your prototypical punt returner who has that quick-twitch, smaller body type that makes everybody miss, but he is strong. Once he gets rolling, he is really fast, as you guys know. He has always been a really good ball security guy, which we emphasize. That is the No. 1 thing that we emphasize constantly with him and all our returners. I am proud of what he accomplished and what our punt return team accomplished, especially the last two weeks.”


On Peoples-Jones seeming tentative when first serving as the Browns punt returner:

“Like any young player, reps and confidence. Reps and confidence really help any returner because punt returner is not an easy job. Most normal human beings don’t want to be a punt returner for obvious reasons. You always have the fair catch to protect you. I think he has grown, he has matured and with experience because he is an intelligent player, he understands the nuances of the position. He continues to improve in that regard, as well.”


On aspects that have helped Peoples-Jones and the Browns improve with the punt return unit, in addition to experience:

“(WR) Anthony Schwartz has done a great job. Here is a wide receiver who is playing corner and he can run with anybody. He has done a really nice job the last few weeks. (CB) Greedy Williams and (S) Ronnie Harrison (Jr.), both of those two guys have done a great job on punt return. The guys inside (LB) Jordan Kunaszyk and (LB) Tony Fields (II) had a big block at the point of attack, a lot of those guys have done a really nice job. A lot of the rookies have bought in, (RB) Jerome Ford, he is our kickoff returner, but he also played on punt return last week, and (RB) D’Ernest Johnson. A lot of those guys are doing a nice job for us. When you have a guy who has a chance to score, it is amazing how much harder guys work and how much longer they work. They finish plays with more confidence, and that has really helped us.”


On Schwartz gaining confidence on offense and special teams in recent weeks prior to being placed on injured reserve earlier this week:

“I talked to him this morning. I was disappointed for him and disappointed for us because he has done a great job. He has a couple plays that he made at gunner. He has done a great job on punt return locking down their No. 1 gunner because he can run so fast. He has done a decent job on kickoff and kickoff return. I am real proud of him and his progress. It is just a shame he got hurt.”


On challenges looking to defeat a division opponent for the second time in a season:

“As you guys know, any win is tough to come by in this league. All of these games are so close. Cincinnati, they are playing really well offensively, defensively and special teams. We have our work cut out for us. That is the great thing about this game and about this league. There are no cupcakes in this league. Every game is tough. We are going on the road. It is going to be a great environment for football. Their fans are just as passionate as our fans – maybe not quite as passionate, but they are up there. It is going to be a fun atmosphere. It will be a very competitive, good football game. I am looking forward to it.”


On LB Sione Takitaki sustaining a knee injury on the punt unit last week:

“He was getting blocked. A lot of teams hold, and they were holding him. He spun to get off the hold once, and they locked him down again. We teach the guys to spin because then the officials call it. If you don’t do anything and you get off of a holding call, they are not going to call it. They will throw the flag. I thought maybe they would throw one there, but they didn’t. Just got his foot caught in the turf. It was sad. That one broke my heart. You have a great play where you cause a fumble and we set up our last score, we get a field goal and we are up by three scores now, and you look out and one of your favorite players is on the ground. That was tough for me because we have a great relationship. He has played for me now for four years. He is a great person, a great leader, a great locker room guy and a great friend of guys on the team. That is going to be tough. You can’t replace a guy like him.”


On P Corey Bojorquez’s season and performance last week:

“He has been hot and cold this year, as you guys know, mainly hot. He has done a nice job overall. I think he really found his groove. Indoors is easier obviously to punt the ball, but he had a good rhythm going. We protected extremely well. They came after a couple of punts. The one punt we downed at the 2 and then we had the penalty – a guy blocked Greedy (Williams) in the back, the returner did – and they put the ball at the 1. Two plays later, (CB) Denzel Ward is in the end zone with a fumble returned for a touchdown. All of that complementary football is huge. He had punted pretty well in the Tampa game, as well. He is starting to get more and more confidence and continually working on his technique. He is making some strides, as well.”


On Bengals P Drue Chrisman:

“He is hitting the ball well. He hit some line-drive punts, but he has a strong leg. He is a bigger, stronger guy. (Bengals P) Kevin (Huber) has had such a great career there. I have so much respect for Kevin Huber and what he has accomplished in his career. Kudos to him. I think they signed him back to their practice squad in case anything happens to Drue. He is a big, strong guy. I liked him coming out. He can throw the ball. He threw a fake in the Big Ten Championship back in 2019 so we look at all of that tape. We know he can throw, and that is always a threat. I think being a righty [with Huber being a lefty], it changes a little bit with how punt teams play. When you rush the punt, it is on the different side. He will continue to grow because he is big and strong. He has a lot of talent.”


On if he talks with K Cade York talk about the amount the percentage of effort or strength that goes into each kick attempt based on distance: 

“We don’t really talk about percentage, but we do talk about rhythm. Absolutely, sometimes the rhythm may be too fast for the ball or may be too slow to the ball. There is always that right mindset and right rhythm to the ball. That is absolutely something we talk about, but nothing like 100 percent, 80 percent or 90 percent.”


On York’s two kickoffs that went lower were done intentionally:

“Not really. Any time you kick off after a punt return for a touchdown when nine of the guys on the kickoff team were on the punt return team and they are all looking at me like, ‘Hey man, we need a touchback here,’ we were hoping to get a touchback there. He miss-hit a little bit, and the guys covered it well. It is one of those things when that ball came up, ‘Oh no. Let’s not go back-to-back [return touchdowns] here, guys.’ They covered it well.”


On if York is ‘back to normal now’:

“I don’t think that any kicker is ‘back to normal’ – no, I am kidding (laughter). He has a lot of confidence. His big thing was getting the ball in the air and good elevation. He has worked really hard on that the last few weeks. He just has to be more consistent and believe in the process, like we talked about last week. I thought he did a really nice down there in Houston.”


# # #


***Visit the Browns Media Center for materials provided by the Browns communications department, including media schedules, press releases, quotes, photos, media guides, rosters, depth charts and more.***