Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer (9.16.21)

 Opening statement:

“A tough loss on Sunday. I think our quarterback (Baker Mayfield) said it best. You guys heard him. We played good against a great team, but to go into Arrowhead, we had to play great against that team to beat them. They were a very good football team. We did some good things early and then we had the inexcusable drop of a punt snap and the subsequent run with it instead of punting it. Then we had a punt return in the fourth quarter, they line drive a punt and if we get the gunner on our left side blocked – he made a great play – we have a really nice return set up. I was disappointed by our fourth quarter performance on special teams. We have to get those things corrected and we will, and then we have to move on to the Houston Texans, which we have done all week.”


On if P Jamie Gillan took his eye off the football briefly and made a bad situation worse by attempting to run it:

“He just dropped it. You guys see us on the jugs all of training camp, all spring and every Wednesdays and Thursday now during the season. I would think that we take more punt and field goal snaps off of the jugs than anybody in the league or at least as much or more than anybody in the league. Did he take his eye off it? I do not know. I do not think the moment was too big for him. I do not think the crowd was involved. He is not a rookie. If he was a rookie and that was his first play, maybe. Yeah, he had plenty of time. He had six blocks and we had it blocked up, and they had a return look. He has to pick it up, take one step and punt it out of there, and he did not react the way we asked or wanted him to.”


On how many snaps Gillan has taken in practice:

“During the week, he probably takes at least 50, and then in training camp, every single day he took at least 15-20 punt snaps off of the jugs and 15-20 field goal snaps. He has great hands. he is a great athlete. He was not a holder until he got here and became a really good holder. I think he is a good holder. I cannot explain why he dropped it.”


On if Gillan’s rugby instincts caused him to pick the ball up and run:



On if that situation caused him to lose faith in Gillan:

“No, not at all.”


On if Gillan could have punted with his right leg in the situation:

“If anything, go left. We work on similar things. Like if a ball goes over his head, he circles back this way [over right shoulder] so he could scoop it up and punt with his left foot. We talk about different situations and bad snaps or dropped snaps.”


On if the Browns practice those types of challenging scenarios:

“I do not like to practice failure – I am being serious. It is like a fire call on a field goal snap or a muffed field goal snap. We talk about it and we might walk through it, but we never want to actually practice that exact situation. To me, if you are practicing a dropped snap, we are practicing failure. Do we talk about those things? Of course, and we cover the different situations.”


On Gillan’s response to why he ran with the ball:

“I did not talk to him because it was the rest of the game. I did not say anything to him about it. I did not want him to get too upset because we might have to punt again, which we did. He did a good job. We covered it well. We talked a little bit about it on the airplane. He really had no real excuse. He had no excuse why he dropped it. He is not an excuse-maker. He is a stand-up guy, and he knows he has to perform at a high level and be a weapon for our football team, and it starts on Sunday.”

On if Gillan was torn up about the muffed punt:

“Oh, devastated. We all were. We all were for him and for our football team.”


On determining when to kick the ball out of the end zone on a kickoff, referencing late in the Cowboys-Buccaneers game:

“I do not remember how much time was left. If there is less than 30 seconds, maybe you squib it down there. Do you remember the game at Cincinnati maybe a year ago where we just kind of squibbed it down there and it wasted five to six second and all they had was the Hail Mary? Every situation is a little bit different. (Buccaneers QB) Tom Brady can score with under 10 seconds left from the 30-yard line or he can do it in 1:30.”


On the cut off and determining when to kick it through the end zone or squib during a game:

“I think it is the weather, the wind, the opponent and how well they move the ball and how well we played on defense. Those type of things go into account. That is something that the head coach and I would discuss before we kicked off.”


On coverage teams not getting much practice covering kicks or squib kicks outside of practice scenarios and how it translates to a game:

“We did a great job covering two kicks on Sunday. That is kind of our philosophy. They are a pretty good kickoff team. (K) Chase (McLaughlin) kicked the ball off well the other day. I think every situation warrants a different mindset. Those are the things that the head coach and I talk about a lot in practice, in the office or during the game on the sideline.”


On if it being late in the game and not yet attempting a punt factored into the muffed punt:

“He knows that we have a good offense. He knows that hopefully we will not punt a lot this year. We have talked a lot about that where he has to come off and it is almost like a sudden change for the kicker – like a pick-six or a punt return for a touchdown or something and we score quickly – they cannot kick it in the net two or three times. I have had kickers in the past tell me, ‘Well Coach, I missed that PAT because I was not ready.’ What do you mean you were not ready? This is the National Football League. He is not a rookie. He is a third-year veteran. This is his third year in the league, and he should go out there and handle it like it is practice.”


On WR Donovan Peoples-Jones attempting to pick up the ball after a punt on the 1 yard line:

“If you noticed, their entire crowd did not know the rule, and I do not think half of their team knew the rule, but our guys knew the rule. We cover that a lot. What happens is when our opponent punts the ball, if they touch it first, we can pick it up at no cost, meaning we can pick it up and run 30 yards and fumble and they recover, and we get the ball where they touched it first. It is the rule of first touch on a punt team. That is why on our punt team, if we are going to down the ball, we want to down the ball and hand the ball to the official so they do not have an opportunity to pick it up and run with it. If you notice, all of our guys knew that rule. We cover it all of the time. They thought they had a touchdown. I was just laughing on the sideline. I was just hoping the officials would not mess it up, and they did not.”


On if Peoples-Jones play is risky near the end zone, particularly if the officials get the call wrong:

“They already touched it so we would go to review. You can review that. Then New York [NFL headquarters would review it]. If there are not that many guys around – say it was just the gunner and he taps it back in the field of play – we are taught to pick it up and take off with it. He might get 10-15-20 yards. We might get out of the 1-yard line area because it was a really good punt by their kid.”


On if he would call Peoples-Jones’ move a heads-up play, even though fans thought it was a bad move at first:

“It was a great play. It is exactly what he is taught to do.”


On McLaughlin being listed on the injury report with a hamstring:

“I think he just had a little tweak. He went in there and said, ‘Hey, look I need some extra treatment.’ The next thing you know, he is getting an MRI, and we were bringing up (K) Chris (Naggar). We did that obviously to protect ourselves on gameday. I do not know if you guys know this, we went out about two hours before the game, and he kicked maybe six to seven field goals and a couple of kickoffs and said he was fine.”


On if McLaughlin showed anything to the team with how he handled the situation last week:

“Yeah, it showed me that he is a mentally tough kid. I like Chase. He did a good job. He kicked off well for us. He made his PATs that he needed to make. He is a mentally tough kid. He kicked well yesterday and will kick again tomorrow, and we are off and running for Sunday.”


On how he felt about McLaughlin’s performance compared to the Atlanta game:

“He made three PATs. Yeah, I feel good about him.”


On grazing the FG post on one PAT:

“Yeah, I think he turned on it a little bit. He knows he has to kick his true ball every time. We can complain all we want, but it went through the uprights. You know how that goes on my side of the profession. If it goes through the uprights, I do not care what it looks like on gameday. We can correct the stuff in practice.”


On if it was a nerve-wracking couple of days when McLaughlin’s game status was uncertain:

“It is funny, when (Senior Vice President of Player Health & Development) Joe Sheehan walked in my office and said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ Of course, I was sitting down. I was getting ready for Saturday’s meeting and walkthrough, and he told me what was going on with Chase. I said ‘OK, here we go.’ At least we had somebody on the roster. We were smart enough to put and (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew (Berry) had a guy on the practice squad where I had this happen when I was in Denver, we did not have someone on the practice squad when practice squads were smaller and did not have the COVID rules. We signed a young man on Saturday and played for us on Sunday. I had never coached him before in my life. Just do not bat an eye. Just keep rolling with the punches.”


On if Gillan is the team’s emergency K in the event of injury during a game:

“He would have to be, yes.”


On if he hears Browns fans sharing the expression ‘one more championship before I die,’ given his ties to Northeast Ohio since the Browns have a good team this year:

“I told you guys many times, I am not into predictions. We have the Houston Texans this week. We have a lot of work to do here in the next couple of days to get prepared for them. They are outstanding on special teams. They have good specialists. They signed (Texans WR) Andre Roberts, who I think is a great returner – not a good returner. You like that segue to talk about the Texans (laughter)? At the end of the day, we have to focus one game at a time and one week at a time. That is all we can do. I think our fans know that, the good ones out there, and we have a lot of great Cleveland Browns fans. As you guys know, I am one of them. I just think we have to take it one week at a time and go from there.”


On the incident involving S Ronnie Harrison Jr. and a Chiefs assistant coach and if there has been discussion in the building amongst the coaches about contact with players:

“I would not hit Ronnie Harrison – have you seen the size of that guy (laughter)? Ronnie was in a tough spot. Obviously, none of us condone what he did. I have never been in a position where I would push a player ever. I do not care how mad you are at a guy. That was kind of a heat of the moment thing. Unfortunately, Ronnie got thrown out because that hurt us. We talk about that of being a smart, tough, accountable and resilient team and being a football player that you can play for the Cleveland Browns if you are that type of guy. I know Ronnie is that type of guy. I am sure he regrets that decision. You just have to move on and hope it does not happen again.”


On how Harrison being ejected impacts a player like S M.J. Stewart and the special teams unit, given Stewart contributes on special teams:

“Poor M.J., I looked at him and said, ‘I will take you off… No, I am just going to take you off of kickoff.’ I only took him off of one phase. He did everything else for us and did a great job. He is a heck of a player.”


On if the Browns received a memo from NFL HQ about the Harrison incident:

“No, not to my knowledge.”


On RB Demetric Felton’s performance on Sunday:

“The kickoff return – you saw it – we ran a counter left, and they did exactly what we thought they would do. Everybody was over on the side and we kicked out the No. 2 and were coming up on the No. 1, and he stumbled. If he does not stumble – we did not block it great on the back side – we are going to get to the 30-35. He has to learn from that. When you are cutting to the left, you have to plant off of your right foot. When you are cutting to the right, you plant off of your left foot. He tried to cut to his left by planting off of his left foot, and he stumbled. I think he learned a lesson. He was probably nervous. The punt return at the end of the game, we need more from him on that one. It was a line-drive punt. That kid is a good punter, but we just put a little bit of pressure on him. It worked out exactly how we thought it would. We needed about a 15-20 yarder. We needed to jump start that drive, and we did not do that, and that is what I was very disappointed in.”


On if the special teams unit as the strength of the Texans:

“I do not watch their offense and defense, but they are very good on special teams. They have guys who can cover all across the board. They have (Texans K) Joey Slye, who has a big-time leg filling in for (Texans K) Ka’imi Fairburn. They have a good snapper (Texans LS Jon Weeks) who has been there 12 years. Their punter who they got from the Eagles, (Texans P) Cameron Johnston, has a really good leg and can manipulate the ball all over the field. We have our work cut out for us. I have not slept much this week and probably won’t the rest of tonight, Friday or Saturday night.”


On if his assessment of the Texans special teams goes beyond the Jaguars game:

“Absolutely because I know the guys who they signed. I know some of them. I have coached some of them. They are going to play hard, and they have something to prove. They feel like that in order to win this game, they have to play well on special teams, and that is what I am preaching to our guys. We have to counter that and actually outplay them. That is our goal.”


On the Texans having several familiar faces with former Browns:

“Oh, sure. (Texans CB) Tavierre (Thomas). I know (Texans LB) Tae Davis is on IR and I know was playing well for them before he got hurt. They have good guys all across the board. When I was watching the [waiver] wire this spring, I was like, ‘Good night, they signed another good player, another good player.’ No. 51 (Texans LB Kamu Grugier-Hill) is a good linebacker. No. 48 is a good linebacker – (Texans LB) Joe Thomas. They are good across the board.”


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