STC Mike Priefer (10.31.19)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

Opening statement:

“Good morning, everybody. I hope you guys have had a good week. Excited about the opportunity we have on Sunday afternoon in Denver. Obviously, I spent two years there. It was not a greatest experience in terms of football, but it is a beautiful place to live and good people. Enjoyed my time out there for the most part. Looking forward to going back and getting a win.”


On the challenges on special teams playing in altitude:

“We have not talked a ton about it, but obviously they know. We have talked about it enough that they understand the challenges and you are going to winded, you are going to have to use the oxygen and you have to be smart. Obviously, the weather has been pretty poor out there lately. I think it is going to be OK Sunday, but make sure that we have the right cleats again and make sure that the young kicker and the young punter do not crazy. When I coached there for two years, every opposing punter and kicker used to come in there and just try to go bombs away and try to do something extraordinary because they are going to use the altitude. I told our guys, ‘Hey, just let the altitude work for you. Do not try to do something that you are not.’ We have two strong-legged kicks with our punter and kicker with (P) Jamie (Gillan) and (K) Austin (Seibert). I think if they go out there and just do what they have been doing and kick at a high level, the altitude will actually help them in rather hurt them like it does to other guys because it gets in their head a little bit.”


On how much additional yardage the altitude may offer for a K like Seibert’s:

“If it is not a very windy day, probably 5-6 yards, I would imagine. Pregame will show that. He and I always talk about it pregame then I let (Head Coach) Freddie (Kitchens) know what our range is going in certain directions that day to be safe. Whether it is the 32, 35 or 38 yard-line going one way or the other. Then of course at the end of the half or the end of the game, you might have to extend that a little bit for obvious reasons to get the game-winning kick or end of half type of kick. I would imagine it is probably around 5 yards and the hang time for a punter could upwards of another half a second of hang time. I have no scientific proof of that – I am not smart enough to figure that part out. It has been my experience for being out there for two years that it is amazing how an average punt becomes a 5.0 punt because of the altitude.”


On how Gillan and Seibert handled the inclement weather at New England:

“They handled it great. They handled it great throughout the week. They came to me last Wednesday and said, ‘Hey coach, it is going to raining there – 100 percent chance of rain.’ So I said, ‘That is probably a pretty good chance.’ They went out and did wet ball drills for the snapper, punter, kicker and holder and all that type of stuff. We worked on it Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. They were ready for it. Pregame was crazy. It was really pouring in pregame, and it kind of slowed down a little bit. The balls were getting pretty heavy and they got a little frustrated by that, but overall, I think they handled the conditions perfectly. The snapper had a couple of little high snaps on punt, Jamie did a good job getting them out of there. Jamie did a great job as a holder and a punter. Austin kicked the ball well. It was a good day for those guys.”


On the benefits of having a player like CB Denzel Ward on FG block, who blocked one on Sunday:

“The good thing is that we have had two different guys block kicks now on field goal. We do not want to give away any tendencies away because when you give away tendencies, then susceptible to the fake. We are going to keep mixing it up. We are going to keep block sides one way, block sides the other way. The next rep, we have the same look trying to be sound that way like a defense would be sound in that regard. You take away the fake opportunities our opponents might think they have against us, but because you have two guys, you really have two block sides because No. 20 (CB Tavierre Thomas) and No. 21 (Ward) can block kicks for us. I really think that helps us at the threat off the edge. Our guys inside – (DT) Sheldon Richardson, (DE) Myles (Garrett), (DE) Olivier (Vernon), (DT) Larry (Ogunjobi) and even the backups – they are doing a phenomenal job of getting push, as well. We have been very close to blocking a couple inside. We are going to keep being aggressive but keep being sound and take away those fake opportunities that our opponents might have.”


On if Gillan’s ability to dropkick assists with new onside kick rules is a benefit:

“I do not know if it is so much the new rules. I think even with the old rules, you can still kick that type of kick, but because everybody is more condensed maybe. I never really thought about it that way to be honest with you. I think that kick can give you problems because of the different type of spin, the different looks that he can give you – he can give a high bounce, he can kick it low on the ground, he can bloop it over the top or he can kick it the other way. He is such a talented young athlete, and he is going to take his rugby background and apply it to football. We started playing with this back in the spring a little bit. Of course, Jamie talks junk to Austin that he has a better onside kick than Austin. It is kind of fun for me the competition because now they are both getting better at it.”


On deciding who will take potential onside kicks:

“Practice, they both practice different type of kicks – Austin not so much the drop kick but the normal traditional onside kick. He can do different things as well. I gave them a homework assignment over the summer. I said, ‘Come back with three of four different kicks that you are really good at.’ Surprise onside, must onside and those type of things that they need to perfect so we can get a chance to win a game at the end. He kicked it probably a little bit too hard and the ground was wet and we had a little bit too much of a spin, but it was great attempt. It was a good first attempt for him. Now, we just have to improve from there.”


On the team’s FG percentage:

“Austin is a very confident young man. We went again down to the stadium yesterday and we got another 20 field goals or so down there. We have them really emphasizing kicking in the dog pound end because those the two PATs misses have been in that end. Kind of get him over that mental hump that says, ‘You know what? I can make it no matter what. No matter what the conditions are, no matter what the winds are, field conditions, I have to go out and execute, especially at home.’ We get those opportunities.” Jamie has done a great job as a holder. (LS) Charley (Hughlett), like I told you guys before, is kind of the glue that holds those two young guys together and does a great job mentoring them. We have a good group and they have worked hard. I will be honest with you, our field goal protection unit – we had the field goal meeting this morning – these guys are locked in. Denver does different stuff, jumping through the A gap like New England tried the other day. We handled that perfectly. Charley was communicating that. We have to be ready for all that stuff, and our field goal unit takes a lot of pride in what they do.”


On the difference between Ravens K Justin Tucker’s dropkick and Gillan’s and Tucker dropping it multiple times:

“That part, right, you can’t do that obviously, No. 1. Number 2, the ball as it hits the ground, that is when the foot needs to strike the ball. You can’t bounce up in the air then you can hit it. The league has come out and said, ‘Hey, this is what the rule is. This is how we are going to apply the rule.’ Most people are going to drop kick, they are going to kick it as the ball hits the ground, boom, almost instantaneously after that they are going to kick the ball. What Justin did was not legal, and I am sure he won’t do it again.”


On if the dropkick is to work around new kickoff rules that have decreased the success rate of onside kicks:

“I think no matter what the rules are, you are going to try to get the best kick to give us the best opportunity. The old little pop up onside kick, you can’t overload it anymore like you said because of the rules. You can match up almost like 4.5 or 5 on 5 – 4.5 when the guys got to take away the slow roller and he has to be able to block in front of the ball. That is kind of what we do on our hands team. Because of the rules change, you have to do something different. You have to adapt like we adapted. That is what special teams do. We adapt pretty well to the different rules and try to take advantage of the different type of kicks.”


On RB Dontrell Hilliard returning all punts last week instead of WR Jarvis Landry:

“Dontrell has been there. He has worked real hard. He has gotten better, and I know we have to eliminate the muff. I think with the skill that Jarvis has a receiver, you guys brought it up to me and you guys were asking that question a few weeks ago about having Jarvis back there and having (WR) Odell (Beckham) back there. We have to pick and choose our spots. Those two guys are still an option. They are always an option, but the normal course of the game, we felt like Dontrell was the right guy at that point. Those two other guys are still there if we need them.”


On if WR Antonio Callaway is an option as a returner:

“He still is considered a returner. Antonio is still an option for us there. Antonio when he came back from suspension, he was really, really focused on offense and I think that is where we are trying to get him more involved on the offensive side of the ball and continue to work with him as a returner so he can be an option for us.”


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