STC Mike Priefer (11.7.19)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

Opening statement:

“Good morning. It is nice to be back home this week in front of our fans and in our stadium. It has been a few weeks since we have been home. We have some work to do. We know that. We continue to emphasize playing with enthusiasm and passion. It is how we have been running practices. That is how I normally run my part of the practice. I think it needs to continue, especially when you are 2-6 and you are not playing great football. You need to understand why you are here. I was telling the guys this morning, every morning I wake up I thank the good Lord I have the opportunity to coach in the National Football League and to coach for the Cleveland Browns, and I hope they share that same sentiment when we are talking about playing in the league and not everybody gets this opportunity. I think we all have to embrace that. We have eight games to go. There is a lot of football to be played. We have to get after the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon. Obviously, that will be our focus throughout the rest of the week.”


On if he is pleased with being fourth in the NFL in special teams efficiency, particularly with a rookie K and P:

“The thing about the rookies is that they are so talented, and they are very coachable like we talked about before. They have played well. They have done some good things for us. They are still, as I tell them, we are only scratching the surface. That is the foundation right now. They have to continue to improve every week. Every time we go out there to practice, every time we watch tape, every time we do a drill work or whatever the case may be, we continue to emphasize building on our past successes and then go from there. In terms of the rest of it, I would like a little bit more in the punt return game. I still want to reduce the penalties. We had a dumb penalty last week on punt return. That is two weeks in a row. We have to continue to emphasize eliminating penalties. Really – I will be honest with you – when you are not winning like we would hope to be winning at this point and hope to win the rest of the season and when you are not helping your team win games, that is very frustrating. These rankings and stats, I think they tell a little bit of the story, but at the end of the day, we have to do whatever it takes to help our football team win games. That is the bottom line.”


On if RB Kareem Hunt is an option as a returner:

“No, I do not think so. I would love it to be honest with you. He is so talented. God bless Kareem, back in the spring when he signed here, he was out doing drill work in Phase II and Phase III, he was doing all the special teams drill work and I am saying, ‘Good for him. He is out here maybe getting in shape and I do not think we are going to have a chance to use him.’ He is such an elite running  back in this league. I think he and (RB) Nick (Chubb) continue to do what he and Nick do so well.”


On CB Tavierre Thomas as the team’s kick returner last week:

“He has been campaigning for weeks. Like every player, even the linebackers and I have defensive ends and defensive linemen, ‘Hey coach, I was a returner in high school. I also played quarterback. I played running back.’ Probably a lot of them did. Tavierre did a little bit in college. I think he is so fast and he is explosive. My biggest concern with Tavierre is obviously taking a hit. He had not taken a hit with the ball in hand in a long time, and he did a really nice job with that the other day. I think everybody in the room saw how explosive he was coming out of the end zone, even though one was 7 yards deep. We have to kind of rein that in a little bit. He is aggressive. He is trying to make a play and I know (RB) Dontrell (Hilliard) has had a good year. I think he is one of the league leaders in kickoff return average, but we are always trying to improve, we are always trying to get better, we are always trying to figure out what our next option is what the best option is and we will continue using Dontrell back there, as well, and Dontrell as a punt returner along with the other top receivers as punt return options. At the end of the day, we are always looking to get better and that is what we are trying to do the other afternoon.”


On K Austin Seibert’s performance and continuing to convert his FG attempts:

“He did. Altitude helps everybody’s confidence, I think. He had a really good week in practice just getting ready and we are always playing on grass obviously for the most part. I think he had a good week of practice. He had a really good pregame. He actually off the sticks hit a 68-yard field goal, which I have never seen before. When we were practicing with the group, the holder-snapper in pregame hit a 63-yarder. I think he was feeling good about it. My big thing with him was – I told you guys last week – when you play in altitude, you do not want to do anything extraordinary or different that is going to ruin your technique. He followed through with that and do a nice job the entire day.”


On if he was nervous on the PAT that hit the upright:

“I was only nervous when I saw it hit the upright. I saw the angle it took and I saw the officials say it was good, but they all count. I think he understood that he hit a good ball. He just did not follow through all the way through it and that is something that we will continue coaching with him.”


On the weather beginning to change and points of emphasis on special teams due to it:

“Today we are going to be indoors for practice, but we are going to go outdoors and kick, punt, snap and do our wet ball drills that we did prior to the New England game that helped our guys so much to prepare for that game. I look at our stadium – our guys went down yesterday, and it was a beautiful day yesterday – but they went down there and did some field goal work again, the holder, snapper, kicker. You have to look at FirstEnergy Stadium as our home field. That is our living room. That is where we play, and we have to have that confidence when we go down there no matter what the weather is that we are going to be prepared for it and we are going to use any weather – good weather, bad weather, rainy, cold, snow, wind – we are going to use that to our advantage. It is going to be home field advantage and we are going to be the confident group going in. To be honest with you, the New England game, we felt our specialists were more confident than their specialists and they play there because I think these guys were prepared and they were mentally ready to go into that situation. We are going to be mentally ready Sunday for whatever weather comes our way.”


On his message to the Browns about Bills WR Andre Roberts:

“I tell him that I lose sleep watching that guy return. We played him last year when I was in Minnesota. We went up to New York, and he had not really got going as a kickoff returner and then we helped him with that a little bit. He had two nice returns against us – about a 50-yarder and a 40-yarder. He had been doing great as a punt returner, and we shut him down on punt return. Obviously, our focus is both punt return and kickoff return. The thing is he was a little bit slower in the year, but he missed two games because of his quad injury. He is just now hitting his stride. The thing about Andre is he is just fast enough and just quick enough, big enough, strong enough but he has phenomenal vision. He puts that whole package together. He can make you miss if you are out of control. He will run through you if you are not ready for it. He will outrun you if you are out of position or you are not throttling down under control like we teach our guys to do. He is a very dangerous returner in that right. Obviously, he proved what a great year he had last year. He had a 66-yarder this past Sunday against Washington that you saw the old Andre. He is not hurt anymore. He is healthy. We have to get ready for him.”


On how much consideration the Browns gave to having WRs Odell Beckham Jr. or Jarvis Landry return the final punt of the Broncos game:

“I talked to Odell about it. We thought about. We talked to him about it. We talked about how important it was going to be a longer drive because of where they were punting from unless we popped a big return. He wanted to focus more on offense, which is obviously very, very smart on his part because he would be out there every play to get him fresh. I thought Dontrell did a phenomenal job catching that ball. That ball looks like it was going to go out of bounds inside the five and you catch it at the six. I think he got us six yards to give us a little bit of a start. Their punter, that was his best punt of the game. He really came through for them. I do not think up until that point that he really hit the ball that well. We put a little pressure on him and he shanked a couple. Punt return, we gave our offense the ball at the plus-40 and the minus-48 on two drives. That is our job. Now, we have to get even get further. We have to go talk about scoring, talk about blocking a punt and talk about putting more pressure. This young punter they have in Buffalo is a phenomenal directional punter. It is one of those things that you have to put pressure on him to make him uncomfortable back there, and hopefully, he will line drive to us or maybe we will get one, tip one or whatever.”


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