Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer (9.8.22)


Opening statement:

“Before I start, I want to give a shoutout to several people that do a great job behind the scenes for the Browns and for our organization. (Coordinator of Team Travel) Chavis Cook and our football ops department do an unbelievable job during training camp and during the season and at home and on the road. So many sacrifices those guys make in that department, and Chavis does a wonderful job for us. (Security Director) John Frain and his security department, I want to give them a shoutout, too. Incredible, selfless people that they will do anything to help our organization to help make our lives a little bit easier. Of course (Director of Equipment Operations) Brad Melland and his equipment staff. I do not know practices, if you guys do not notice sometimes, it is extremely important to have people who are competent and know what they are doing during practice, and we really have those guys here. Brad does a great job leading that equipment staff. I appreciate them, and I wanted to make sure I mentioned that before we started the season.


“Onto the Carolina Panthers, the Panthers invested a little bit of money in their personnel this offseason. They brought in (Panthers KR/PR) Andre Roberts, who although he is 34 years old, is still an outstanding returner. He has six career touchdowns – three on punt and three on kickoff. He had a touchdown last year when he was with the Chargers. We played him early when he was with Houston. Obviously, a big-time threat. Even though he is a little bit older, he does act much younger than he is. I look a lot older than I am, but I am much more immature than my actual age so that is kind of how I relate that one (laughter). Secondly, they brought in a punter, (Panthers P) Johnny Hekker, A longtime LA Ram who has had a great career. He will make their punt game much, much better. They have a lot of really good core players. First of all, they have got (Panthers LS JJ) Jansen, a center and 15-year veteran long snapper who is still playing at a high level. They have a lot of good core players. They have No. 42 (Panthers S Sam Franklin Jr.) and No. 23 (Panthers CB Stanley Thomas-Oliver). They have No. 49 who is now playing on defense, (Panthers LB Frankie) Luvu. No. 45 (Panthers FB Giovanni Ricci) is good core team player. They are out their best player in my opinion No. 50 (Panthers LB Julian) Stanford, he is hurt. Watching him in the offseason, he was a nightmare. They have a lot of good players. They are well-coached by (Panthers special teams coordinator) Chris Tabor. You guys know Chris. They are sound. They will play hard for him. He always does a good job with his team. Obviously, our work cut out for us like we do every week but in particular because of some of the unknowns so you do not know exactly where everybody is going to be, that is kind of my challenge trying to guess what Chris has done in Chicago and other places he has been in terms of personnel and how that personnel matches up to what Carolina has on their roster.”


On how the Browns punt and kick return games are looking:

“That is a great question because when (WR) Jakeem (Grant Sr.) got hurt – it has been several weeks – obviously that stung us a little bit. We were going to rely on him a lot on kickoff and punt. Injuries are a part of football unfortunately. They are an unfortunate part of football. In his case, I think he would have transcended our return game. I really do. I think we will be OK. I think we are going to use (RB) Demetric Felton (Jr.), and he has some experience under his belt and he is a year older, a year more mature. He has seen a lot of football since last year. I think he will be a good option for us there.”


On if Felton will return both kickoffs and punts:

“He will be kicks and punts. (RB) D’Ernest Johnson will be a backup there, and (WR) Donovan Peoples-Jones will be a backup on punt return.”


On where Felton has made the biggest jump in his return game:

“He had never returned a punt until a year ago in an actual game. He has worked extremely hard in his ball security, tracking punts, catching punts and just the little nuances of where your hands are, your elbows, your feet, your body position and how to track it, get to the spot and move your feet to adjust and those little things. Hundreds and hundreds of reps since last year in terms of the spring, training camp and then this past week. He is, I do not want to say comfortable because I never want my returner to be comfortable, but I want him to be confident. I think he is much more confident than he was a year ago.”


On if there are many changes to the Browns blocking units on special teams:

“You are always going to have changes. I think at the bottom part of the roster, you have changes every year. Some of the guys who are coming back who really had a good camp: (LB Sione) Takitaki. Sione had a great camp. Really looking forward to his progress. (LB) Jacob Phillips, we will use him on some phases. (S) Ronnie Harrison (Jr.) has come back and has done a really nice job for us. I am excited about his progress. We have some young guys and some rookies – (CB) M.J. Emerson and (DE) Alex Wright and some of the other young rookies who are going to help us in several phases. I am excited about our roster, I am excited about where we are and I can’t wait to get going.”


On K Cade York’s maximum kicking range on Sunday, if the weather conditions are good:

“Do you want me to wait until kickoff to tell you or do you want me to decide at 8 a.m. Sunday morning (laughter)? No, I am kidding. I think it just depends. The other night, I think we tried against Chicago 58 [-yard field goal], which he did not hit it great and 57 he put half way up the net. The sky is the limit. I think it will be again just like a normal game situation. How much time is left in the half? Is it the last kick in the half? If it is a long kick, are we going to have to cover it? Those are the things that you keep in mind. I think it is just a situation-by-situation kick. I do know this, we have a lot of confidence in his leg strength.”


On P Corey Bojorquez winning the P job and working on ‘directionality’:

“I have never used the word directionality in my life – that was awesome (laughter). Yes, he is a better directional punter. That is what we are looking for. I think he has become more consistent. He has shortened down his jab step, which is going to help him with his directional kicks. I am excited about his future because he has a big-time leg, and that is exactly what we need in our stadium – I think you guys know that. If we can become a more consistent directional team, I think that is going to help us.”


On how much he is looking forward to special teams being an asset for the Browns and a key contributor to winning games this season:

“Sure, anytime we go out there, we expect to be a weapon. We expect our punt team to be a weapon. Our kickoff team was absolutely a weapon last year, and we hope to continue that trend. In the return game, the thing that we did for our offense and we have done since I have been here is giving the ball back to the offense. That is first and foremost. If we average seven yards [per punt return], do not turn the ball over and give us good field position and our returners make good decisions, then that is a plus. Jakeem would have made us better in that regard, but I still think we are going to have an opportunity. We are a team that is going to expect to do well on special teams week in and week out. I think we have good players, I think they are well-coached and I think they are going to play hard for us. I think the sky is the limit for our guys.”


On if there were previously questions about Bojorquez’s ability to hold on FGs:

“I think last year early in the season, in Green Bay, there was a question. I think he worked extremely hard on rectifying that, and he has worked really hard since he has been here. If you ask Cade, he would say he has a ton of confidence in him. I think Corey is a really good athlete, and I think he just needed to buckle down and understand the nuances of it. I think he is going to do a great job for us – I know he will.”


On if there is an amount of unknown with York as a rookie:

“Yeah, I think there is. I think there is with a rookie at any position to be honest with you. You just do not know. I was talking to the team the other day, and I talked to them during training camp right before our first preseason game, and I am like, ‘I know a lot of you young players have played in big-time games in college, but there is never going to be a faster game that you have ever played in until the first preseason game.’ Well, I kind of stepped it up a notch and said, ‘Look, we are about to go to the regular season so you have never seen a faster game than your first regular season game.’ It gets like that in the playoffs, etc. etc. With a kicker, I think it can be a little bit different. Like you said, he is very confident, he is very good and he knows it, and he knows he has to keep working on the little things to become more consistent, and when he gets to that point, he has to be like the other great kickers in our league. To me right now, he is the fourth-best kicker in our division when you look at it because he has not proven anything yet, and we have three great kickers in our division. Think about that. Think about our division for a second with those three guys. Cade knows he has to compete with those guys from afar, or unless we are playing them on Sunday, every single week, and I think he is up to that challenge.”


On what York has had to refine:

“He works a lot on his body position. He works a lot with his plant foot and making sure it is not too far [forward] or too far back. Whether or not that plant leg there is a little bit of knee bend in there or not. Those are the things that he will take a look at. We will really focus on maybe one thing every time we practice because you do not want a young guy or any kicker for that matter or punter thinking about too many things at once. It is just the little technique issues that he has to continue to work on to be more consistent, but it is all there. Like anything else, it is like – I am not a golfer; if you guys saw me swing, you would understand why (laughter) – but I think when you take a golfer or any specialist, there is always something you are going to have to work on. He did not kick for 10 days, and yesterday, he came out and was 16 of 18 on the side, and he was mad that he did not make all 18. I said, ‘Look, you have not kicked in 10 days,’ and he went out and did a great job for us. We are resting up that leg, and now he is refreshed and he is ready to roll.”


On if he went down to LSU to work out York and how York compared to other Ks he has worked out in the past:

“I did. One thing that jumped out to me was his confidence. He has a lot of confidence. He came across, I think some coaches thought he was a little bit cocky at the combine; I never saw that. I just saw a young man – he is young now; he just turned 21 a few months ago – that is extremely confident in his abilities, knows he has work to do and he is humble enough to know that he has to go out and prove it week in and week out. That is the one thing that jumped out to me that he was a very confident young man, which I like.”


On if York received 10 days off of kicking due to the leg being a little tired:

“Yeah, I think so. A little bit. Kicking off, he had never kicked off before. He has the ability to – obviously, you guys saw that. I think the kickoffs and the field goals, just felt like it was a smart thing to do. Then we ramped him up this week, he will kick some more tomorrow and be ready for Sunday.”


On jokingly if the Panthers might play Panthers QB Baker Mayfield in kickoff coverage:

“That would be great. We will double him. I know he is a great athlete so we will have to double him.”


On if York has been able to practice kicks in windy conditions, given the weather in Cleveland at times of the year:

“Yeah, and Corey. This is a really good question because we will get the crosswind out here so when O and D is on the other field, we will use Field 2 for example if they are on Field 1. We will kick one way because we have a left to right crosswind and flip it and we will have a right to left crosswind. Or headwind/tailwind and stuff like that. We try to use that, and it is really his idea. He likes to do that. He loves it. Like yesterday, we are kicking field goals into the wind, and he loved it. He kicked I want to say a 58-yarder into the wind yesterday and smoked it. That gives him a lot of confidence to go into Cleveland. Of course, we all know Cleveland is God’s Country. I say that all the time and I firmly believe that, but we do have some bad weather sometimes as you alluded to.”


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