Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer (6.1.22)

On Browns additions on special teams this offseason:

“In free agency, we signed (WR) Jakeem Grant (Sr.), which I thought was a piece that we were missing. I have been part of some really good teams in the past who had excellent returners, whether it was Percy Harvin, Cordarrelle Paterson or Marcus Sherels in Minnesota. When I got here, we had guys who have done a really, really nice job of securing the ball, which obviously first and foremost securing the ball is the No. 1 thing. We have done a nice job there, but we need more production. We need to up the ante a little bit. We are playing in what in my opinion is the best division in football when it comes to special teams. Every team is really good. In order to keep up with those guys, we needed to sign a good returner, and I think we did that so I am excited about Jakeem. The punting game, obviously, we were very inconsistent last year and we had to make a change down the stretch. (Former Browns and NFL P) Dustin (Colquitt) did a good job as a veteran punter and had a veteran presence to our team, but having these two young guys (Ps) Corey (Bojorquez) and Joe (Charlton) fight it out, it will be a great competition. They both had a really good day yesterday. Thursday, they both punted the ball extremely well. They bring a different element. They both are very, very strong. Very good directionally, which we need to do a better job with. I am excited about them. Of course in the draft, drafting a kicker in the fourth round (K Cade York), which is not that unusual but it does not happen that often, I thought (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew (Berry) pulling the trigger on that one was big for us. We needed to have more consistency there. We were very good on kickoffs a year ago. We should continue that – I hope to with the kicker that we have; it starts with the kicker. Obviously, we have a very difficult venue to kick in. Cade will come in, and he is big, and he is strong. He is very confident. He understands his craft. He is young. We have already had him down to the stadium, I think, three times. We are going again tomorrow. We are going to go again during minicamp in a couple of weeks. The more confident he is in our stadium, the better kicker he will be. He has all of the talent in the world. We just have to keep getting him to be more consistent.”


On what made York the right K to draft:

“He is a kicker who obviously won a national championship as a freshman. You guys all and we all talked about the fog kick. He was 15 of 19 from 50-plus. I think he missed six kicks from 40-49 as a freshman, and ever since then, he has been unbelievable. He is a lights-out kicker. He loves the big stage, and he has performed on the big stage. I think that was a really big part of the evaluation. I spent extra time with him at the Combine – the normal time and then I spent extra time with him the next day. I went down to Baton Rouge (La.), took him out to eat and got to know him a little bit and what makes him tick. Got a good feel for how confident he is – I do not want to say cocky but he is very confident. What he is as a kicker and what he is as a person, which I really liked a lot, and the next day, we watched tape from the Combine. He did not have a great Combine. He made no excuses. We mentioned a couple of things and we talked about a couple of technique deals, and then we went out and he had a really good workout with me. Of course, I stayed in touch with him during the pre-draft process. Watched his pro day, and he had a great pro day. Everything leading up to the draft was very, very positive with Cade. To me, the sky is the limit. He can be really, really good. I am excited about him. He is the right guy. He is the right guy for our stadium, for our city and for the division that we play in.”


On if it entered his mind that the Browns might be in position to select York in the fourth round when making the trade on Day 2 of the draft:

“When we made the trade – I will be honest with you – I had tears streaming down my face (laughter). I was a very happy man. We traded the first pick of the fourth round, and I was like, ‘Oh boy, here we go.’ Once we made that trade… We had talked about it. Of course, I am not privy to all of the information nor do I want to be – I have too much going on in this little brain of mine – but once we made that trade, you are right, I knew we would have an opportunity to where we were going to get him in the fourth round. I am looking at all of the teams before and after and who is coming up in the draft and who needs a kicker, and I was worried about some other teams. When Andrew pulled the trigger in the fourth round, that was a big deal.”


On if upper-40 yard kicks can sometimes be more difficult than 50-plus yard kicks, referencing numbers for former Browns K Chase McLaughlin and York’s freshman year at LSU:

“That was his freshman year, and ever since then, he has been really good. That is kind of your money kick – 40-49. Fifty-plus, you are hoping to make 60-65 percent maybe, but 40-49 in this league, you have to be 90 percent. That is where we struggled a little bit down the stretch last year. Did [McLaughlin] make those big kicks? Sure, he made the 50-plus and made a 57-yarder in our stadium and did some really good things for us, but down the stretch, he probably missed too many and hurt our football team too many times. We have to make sure that we make those kicks. As you guys know, most of these games are one-score games in our league and especially in our division so we have to make sure that we make those kicks that help our team.”


On York’s ability on kickoffs, given LSU had another specialist primarily handle that role:

“Just by watching him kick field goals, you knew that he had a big leg. He confirmed that for us at the Combine. He confirmed it for us at his workout that I had with him, the pro day workout and then the work we have had here. He will be fine on kickoffs. He has a big leg. He does not try to over-kick it and overdo it. He trusts his technique. Really, the other day, we had a little bit of tailwind – we talk about how we like to hang it up and cover because we were so good in cover last year and we are trying to work on that – and he could not really do it because he had so much wind behind him, and he kept knocking them 70-75 yards with 4.3-4.4 hangtime. He definitely has the leg strength. I just think we have to refine exactly how we want certain kicks kicked. He has to understand this is not college football where they just like to bombs a way and kick touchbacks because we are not like that. We are going to have a time when we need touchbacks, but we have hang kickoffs, we have liners, we have squibs, we have borders, we have surprise onside and we have must onside so it is a whole different bunch of clubs in his bag that he needs to get good at, and that is the stuff that he really needs to work on because he really never did it in college, but he has the ability to do so.”


On the decision to not sign another K prior to training camp:

“We have done it before. I think we just have to limit his kicks. Because he is young, he wants to kickoff all of the time, which is good that he wants to compete and get better, so I will make sure that I rein him back a little bit. I think the theory was we drafted him, and he was going to be our guy. Let’s let him take every rep. I think because he needs to understand how important each situational rep is, I would rather not waste it on a guy who is not going to be our kicker. We have a punter competition. We were not going to have a kicker competition – he was going to be our guy. I think every rep that he gets with the team and every rep that he gets in the stadium is going to make him better. That was our thinking. It is a great question because a lot of teams… I think Cincinnati brought in their guy and kept some kind of camp competition, but I think everybody knew who the kicker was going to be in Cincinnati. I think the same thing is true here. I like the fact that Andrew – that was his idea – ‘What do you think?’ I was like, ‘I am all for it.’ We will make sure we do a good job of limiting his kicks so we do not over-kick him at camp.”


On ultimately having a K on the practice squad:

“We will end up having a kicker, I am sure, on the practice squad at some point. What we did in the past, whoever does not make a team and some of the guys who did really well in camp around the league, we will grab a tryout, unless they sign with the team that they are with or whatever the case may be. I would assume that we would have a punter or a kicker as a practice squad player, but I do not know for sure yet.”


On if he actually got emotional when it became clear the Browns would potentially take York in the fourth round:

“I am an emotional guy (laughter). I can neither confirm nor deny that I shed [happy] tears that night (laughter).”


On his mindset when it became clear the Browns would potentially take York in the fourth round:

“We had talked about if there is an opportunity in the fourth round if we traded – I knew Andrew does a great job with all of the trades and everything – but once we made that trade, I am like, ‘OK, game on.’ The problem is I had to wait until Saturday. It was a tough two days, but I am not going to confirm nor deny that I shed tears of joy and then even more tears of joy when we did pick him (laughter).”




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