STC Mike Priefer (10.4.19)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

Opening statement:

“I want to start out by thanking the Cleveland Fire Department for greeting us on our way back when we arrived in Cleveland Sunday night after the Baltimore win. We had a water arch, which was really cool, I have never been a part of something like that. Obviously, a very unique city, a great city, great fans. Obviously, I told you guys before, I am excited about being back and hopefully be a part of something special here as we continue going forward. The Baltimore win obviously was a huge win on the road. I thought we did some really good things. The one area where we are going to really improve on and we better improve quickly is our kickoff return unit. We did not do a very good job. Baltimore got after us pretty good. When you play fast and when you play physical on the other phases, you expect to do the same thing on kickoff return and really on every phase. That has kind of been our mantra all year long. It was a little disappointing in that regard, but our guys played hard and we did some good things. We have to keep getting better every week.”


On if P Jamie Gillan has developed faster than expected:

“I think he is probably right on schedule. You were hoping he would be. You never know when you have a young punter, a young kicker or whatever the case may be – a young player at any position. He is very coachable. He is willing to try different things because he is so talented. He can do so many things. Hopefully, he is only scratching the surface in terms of what he can do for us. I know I have said that before, as well. I am excited about where he is. He has not been perfect, not even close, but we are doing some things that normally you do not do with a young punter because he is open to suggestions and he is not worried about things. He is very confident in his abilities. As we continue to progress through the season, hopefully, we continue to see him ascend every week.”


On Gillan changing his punting technique to a two-step approach:

“He was open to the change. He had good coaching in college. Those guys really did a good job with him. I know he has been open to a lot of different suggestions since he has been here. One day during training camp, we were kicking outside and just warming up, and he was two-stepping. I am watching him going, I am like, ‘This guy has an unbelievable leg.’ We already knew that, but he is literally, left foot, right foot and boom. I said something to him afterwards saying, ‘I think you are going to be a two-stepper one day.’ He was still competing for the job so I did not want to change him obviously during the preseason. Once we got into the season a little bit, we started playing around with a little bit more during practice and started tweaking a little bit. He still is not perfect. He is still taking a little bit of a jab at times, which is fine. Anytime you are more compact and anytime your steps are shorter, you are reducing the margin for error to be quite honest. When he does that, his drop is going to be more consistent and he will hopefully get a more consistent punt on a more consistent basis.”


On if Gillan may have had a punt blocked against the Ravens if Gillan still had his three-step approach:

“His get off was pretty quick there. I think if it is a normal get off, right around 2.0 [seconds], I think we are still OK – although, it was close. Anything higher than that, we might have been in trouble. It was a good scheme rush by them. We did not do a good enough job of what we say is work the outside hand and the outside number in our zone technique. We have to a better job with that. That will continue to improve. We started the game with a rookie left tackle, a rookie left wing and a rookie punter. I am trying to think if there was one more rookie out there. Normally, you do not punt rookies on the punt team. I was told a long time ago by (former New York Giants special teams coordinator) Mike Sweatman, who I used to work for with the Giants – he was a long time special teams coordinator, a great coach, a great mentor of mine – ‘Do not put rookies on the punt team, ever.’ Of course, he coached with the Giants when they won a couple of Super Bowls there with (Pro Football Hall of Fame Head) Coach (Bill) Parcels. They did not have free agency back then. They did not have any rookies and they had all these veterans guys on the punt team every year. It was a different era. It is a little nerve racking putting rookies out there, but just got to go out there, prepare them and get them ready, and hopefully they will keep playing hard for us, which they have done. They just have to correct some of those minor mistakes.”


On satisfaction with the kicking game:

“We have to keep working. The return game is a big emphasis this week. We are always talking about minimizing penalties. We did not have any last week, but they did not either. They may not have been calling them or whatever. It was a pretty clean game last week by both teams. Hopefully, we are playing hard enough in our coverage phases where we are forcing the opponent into penalties and into penalty situations, which is what we want. We have to keep working technique wise. Our kickoff return, we did not block a soul so we were not going to get a penalty. We could not even grab and hold them. They were just running right through us. I have a lot of pride and our guys have a lot of pride in everything that we do. With the punter, we are kind of scratching the surface in trying to figure out who we are and having identity. I know we are playing hard. We are playing fast. They are coachable. I think the guys are buying in in the locker room to what we are trying to preach as coaches. We just have to keep getting better and help our team field position wise for offense and defense and hopefully get a score in there at some point and maybe I will be happy. I do not know. We will see. I will let you know.”


On how much fun it is to coach a player with a personality like Gillan:

“As long as he knows when to focus and lock it in, I am fine with it. I think he has done a really good job with that for the most part. The Jets game Week 2, he had a good game, pinned them inside the 20 five times, he is holding well and we are playing really well on special teams. Midway through the fourth quarter, I look over and he is laughing about something. I think somebody in the stands said something about his accent or about his long hair or something funny. He kind of chuckles and I kind of caught him in mid-chuckle and I just walked over there very calmly, as calmly as I can be on gameday and just mentioned that we need to finish. We have to focus, and that applies to everybody on the team, no matter what the score. The other day it was 40-18 and guys were happy and we are playing well. We are going to finish this game out, and all I could think about was hands team because if they score, which they end up doing, you have to get the hands team out there, have 11 out there and we have to finish the game. We have to be professionals. Really, I do not feel good about anything until the game is over, no matter the score. We have to keep pressing, and we have to keep getting better. He has great personality, a great demeanor. If he hits a bad ball, he knows it and he has to get better. He has done a nice job at that so far this year.”


On if Gillan has developed to where holding is second nature after not holding earlier in his career:

“It is funny – man, I hate when people say that. It will never be second nature, I think – at least for the next few years. We work on it every single day. Every single day during the offensive/defensive walkthrough, we are working on the jugs with the holds and with the punt snaps. Just muscle memory. Somebody mentioned earlier about muscle memory, doing the same thing over and over and over again. I think he needs to be confident but not relaxed. I think that is what I told him. Expect a great snap but prepare for a bad snap. If we have that mentality, he should continue to get better.”


On if it is acceptable to take kickoffs out from 1 or 2 yards deep in the end zone, referencing one of WR Taywan Taylor’s returns last week:

“It is was a combination. It was phenomenal kick by (Ravens K) Justin (Tucker). It was high. It was 4.26-4.30 hang time, which is extremely high. It was right on cusp of being goal line, 1-yard deep. You never want to tell a guy to catch it on the goal line and one foot is in the field of play, he steps back, take a knee and it is a safety. We are going to air on the side of caution and we are going to bring that out. We have to block better, and our returner quite frankly has to make somebody miss, too. He has to do something other than just running into a wall of defenders. There is a lot of room for improvement there and we have to continue getting better.”


On if WR Antonio Callaway can be an option on special teams:

“I hope so because he has so much talent. Yeah. You have to be able to trust him back there. He has not been hit this year, but if he protects the ball like we have preaching to him since Day 1, then we would have a chance.”


On if he feels for the Rams as a special teams coach following the end of last night’s game:

“I did not watch it. I went to bed when I got home last night. I do not really feel sorry for anybody, I guess. I do like (Rams K) Greg Zuerlein. I worked him out when he came out of college. He is a great kid. I kind of feel bad about the personal side of it, but if we miss one Monday night, they are not going to feel bad for us to be honest with you. The human side of me says yes, I feel bad for a young man like Greg Zuerlein. He is a good person, a good guy and he has had a great career, but football is football. We already played them and we lost and that kind of makes me mad. Then we have Seattle coming up here in a week and half. We will see where we are.”


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