STC Mike Priefer (11.12.20)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

On preparing for potentially rainy weather conditions on Sunday: 

“I usually hear a weather forecast from the specialists starting early in the week and then they kind of give me updates. I really do not look at it until probably Saturday. We will prepare like we normally do for a bad weather game. If it is a nice day, great. If not, then we will be ready for the rain, sleet, the wind. Obviously, two Sundays ago it was a ridiculous wind. I do not know if it will be as bad as it was then. Our guys approached it well. We approached the pregame well. I thought we were prepared. We had the [two punts] and we punted well. First field goal was outstanding, the second one was good and then the third one, he just did not get it enough over to the right and did not hit the ball he wanted to hit there and it just faded out pretty quick. As you guys remember, it was pretty crazy.”

On if the wind conditions in the Raiders game were some the worst he has seen: 

“One of the stronger crosswinds I have ever seen, yes. I have been in games where – obviously, in Minnesota and I spent eight years there – we had some outdoor games that were really windy, cold and snowing. In terms of crosswind, that was probably the worst I have seen.”

On takeaways from the special teams unit’s self-scouting during the bye week: 

“We will go to kickoff return first. I think kickoff return wise, we have had some opportunities, and we have done OK. I think we are certainly in the top 10 in drive start. We have made good decisions back there. We have had a tough couple of decent returns out past the 30, 35-yard line. It is not always going to be blocked perfectly, and I think (WR) Donovan (Peoples-Jones), the more experience he gets, he will understand that. He is always looking for that exact hole or seam that we either drew up or we saw in practice, and it does not always amount to that. He has to continue to work hard in terms of breaking tackles and making people miss at the point of attack.

“On the punt return game, I will be honest, we really have not had very many opportunities. It is hard to get into a good rhythm when we do not have a lot of punt return opportunities. We have had one in the last two games. Now, part of that is because our defense has created so many takeaways, and they have done a nice job that way. I told our guys and I told them again today – we are installing punt return today – that in every opportunity we have, we have to take advantage, whether it is one, two, three or four returns. Whatever it is, we have to create a big play, we have to create pressure on the punter and we have to do the things I think we do best, and that is forcing poor punts or line drive punts and then getting 10 yards or getting 10-20 yards if it is there.

“Houston poses a huge problem because on kickoff and punt, in both of those phases, they are one of the better teams in the NFL in both punt and kickoff. Our challenge for our guys is we have to match their intensity and match their productivity, and we have to get after them on Sunday.”

On K Cody Parkey talking to Raiders K Daniel Carlson about the wind before the game and if he had objections to Parkey talking with an opponent about weather conditions: 

“When I was in Minnesota, we drafted [Daniel], and [Daniel] is a smart guy. He is a really smart young kicker, and he is obviously very good and has done a nice job with the Raiders this year. We had Cody and we were going to mess with him a little bit. We were going to tell him some false stories about the wind and kind of mess with him a bit. Maybe it helped him. I guess in his mind had helped him. Cody and I talked about it before and of course after the game. He did not give him anything that I think helped him. Maybe it did in Daniel’s mind that he got something out of that, but there was no intent there. In fact, it was the exact opposite. Because it was so windy, we were going to try to get in his head a little bit. Maybe it worked on the first one, but he learned from that one and had a good day overall.”

On if he studies what other teams do with onside kicks: 

“Absolutely. We look at all that stuff. We look at every hands team or onside kick play and any end of game and end of half situations plays. I have (assistant special teams coach) Doug Colman, who works with me on special teams, he looks at every play every week and he puts together about a 100-play cut up for me each week that I go through and study that stuff. We actually show some of those clips on Saturday nights before games and we go over a lot of situational football. We feel our guys are really well-versed or well-schooled in terms of situational football, and we have done a nice job with end of half and end of game situations thus far this year. We absolutely study all that stuff and see what is working. Some guys are really creative. We think we have a good plan this week in those situations. You are probably a humble guy if you have coached special teams as long as I have because we have all been humbled in this game at some point, but you can always learn from what other teams are doing and kind of apply it to what you do best.”

On why more NFL players are making fair catches inside the 10-yard line:          

“I think it depends on the philosophy of the coach. It depends on the score or situation of the game. These punters nowadays are so good at pinning people inside the 10-yard line. I know last week was difficult because of the wind, but I think anytime you get yourself in a situation where they have an opportunity to pin you inside the 10, every coach has different rules. I am not going to go into our rules in specifics right now and what we tell our guys. You are going to be aggressive if there is an opportunity to be aggressive, and you are going to let the ball go in the end zone if you feel like it is going to go in the end zone. We do have our rules for our guys. We are not going to tell our guy ever to fair catch it inside the 5. I think other teams around the league have done that. I think that is a big mistake. You noticed our Indianapolis game, if you guys recall that game where [the Colts] fair caught it at the 4-yard line. That was a great punt and great job by (CB) Tavierre (Thomas) covering. He fair caught it at the 4, and then we get a sack and a safety on the next play, one of the biggest plays of that game. To me, you have to pick and choose your spots. You do not want to get one down at the 1, but I do not think you want to make it easy on the punt team by fair catching at the 4 or 5-yard line, if that makes sense.”

On the Texans blocked punt and onside kick recovery against the Packers: 

“They are a well-coached team. (Former Texans special teams coordinator) Brad Seely was the special teams coordinator in Houston for a while, and then his assistant (Texans special teams coordinator) Tracy Smith has done a nice job and has taken what Brad did and been even more creative. He is a young guy. He is creative. They are very well-coached team. When we saw them on the schedule and when we had them after the bye, we knew we were going to use that bye to not only self-scout but to really study Houston because they do such a good job. Obviously, we raise the intensity anytime we punt the ball. It is one of the most important plays in football so we have to make sure not only cover the punt, but we have to protect it first. That is kind of how we coach every play. You are right, there they are very good. They blocked a field goal, as well. They blocked a punt. They recovered that onside kick. They recovered an onside kick last year against Denver with a really nice kick by their kicker, who is also a very good player. Your level intensity goes up no matter who you play, just different phases bring more attention to what you are trying to get accomplished.”

On if home field advantage has been neutralized this year, given NFL teams have a combined losing record at home at this point of the year: 

“I think because the fans are not in the stands and you do not have the fans going crazy when you are on defense and when you make a big play and you can feel that momentum. I will be honest with you, typically, I do not feel it. I think it is more the players and they kind of feed off that intensity and enthusiasm from our fans, especially our fans are the greatest fans in the league. When they are not in there with 70,000 strong or however many our stadium holds, it is a difference. Maybe that is why. I had no idea to be honest with you – I did not know that stat was true. I would think because the fans are not in the stands, and that makes a big difference, especially NFL fans around the league.”

# # #