STC Mike Priefer (12.11.20)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

On his reaction when FB Andy Janovich recovered the second onside kick against the Titans: 

“Relief. I have a lot of confidence in our guys, but it was such a crazy end of that game. We had already recovered one and just going out there and do it again. The problem was (Titans K) Stephen Gostkowski, those are two tough kicks and he is really good at that. We knew it was coming. We had practiced it during the week. That is kind of his specialty and what he does best, and he executed two nice kicks. Our guys did a good job recovering them.”

On the special teams unit’s contributions last week, including the two onside kick recoveries: 

“I felt really good about the way we covered kickoffs especially. We did not get a chance in the return game. Obviously, (K) Cody (Parkey) did a great job. Field goal protection and operation was good. We had two penalties on punt return, which is very unlike us. We normally do not get penalized, especially in that phase. Like I told our guys, we lost over 50 yards field of position. That is totally unacceptable. Knowing who I am – you guys have talked to me now for two years – I was really upset about that. Obviously, very happy we won and very happy we contributed to the win, but we have to correct those mistakes going forward or we are not going to help our team win in the big games and the big moments that are all coming up here in the next four weeks and hopefully beyond.”

On compiling the hands team and how much the Browns work on the hands team during the week: 

“It starts during the week with (pro scout) Sam DeLuca, one of our personal guys. He does a great job. He puts together a cut-up for me of every onside kick that the kicker or punter if he is the kickoff guy, whoever that guy is,  that we are playing that week. He puts together a cut-up that goes back as many years as we can go back. I watch all those and I pick out the ones that I think are the most effective kicks we need to show our guys. Today is like a normal Thursday. We will work on those in practice today, three, four or five reps or whatever it takes. We will show a little bit more tape the night before the game, what their specialty is and what we need to do to execute. I tell our guys, we spend more time than anybody – I do not know if we do, I am sure a lot of coaches spend as much time as we do – but it is a big emphasis for us especially because of who we are and how we are built and all of the close games that we are in and how important that play is.”

On WR Donovan Peoples-Jones recovering from a dropped pass to catch a 75-yard TD pass and Peoples-Jones’ ability to overcome that type of mistake: 

“He has a quiet confidence about him. He does not say much. He is a rookie, which is always nice. When a rookie does not say a whole, that is kind of how you like rookies. He is very intelligent so he understands the game. He understands situational football. He understands what he brings to this football team as a receiver and as a returner.  I think because he does have that quiet confidence about him, he is able to bounce back from any mistakes that he might have.”

On Head Coach Kevin Stefanski’s trust in Peoples-Jones to give the WR another opportunity on offense: 

“I think Donovan has earned Kevin’s trust. He has earned this football team’s trust. The young man made a mistake. He dropped a ball. He made a mistake on one of our returns. The one he cut all the way back for a 1-yard return, if he loses a little bit of ground and gets to the edge, he has a whole wall of blockers right there so he has a good 15-20 yards and hopefully even more. Because he is young – we keep talking about that and that is true – and as we have 12 games under our belt now, he is no longer a rookie per se, and he has to approach things more like a young veteran. Because he is smart and he has that quiet confidence like I said about him, I think he will continue to improve.”

On the growth of the Browns special teams unit and team overall since Week 1: 

“It is funny, I should not have done it to myself, but I watched the game last night. I watched it in order from beginning to end, our special teams against Baltimore the first game. Man, when I left the building last night I was in a bad, bad mood. We played terrible. I know it was a team loss and nobody played very well, but we obviously did not do anywhere near close to what we have been doing lately in terms of helping our football team. That is kind of staying with me a little bit. There is never revenge or anything. It is just the next game on the schedule. It is the Baltimore Ravens. They are a great, great football team. They have outstanding special teams and we have a lot to prepare for, but it is an exciting time of year. We are 9-3. We are fighting hard and we are in December. It is a really important game. It is Monday night. It is going to be fun for our guys. At the end of the day, I think we have grown. I think we have gotten a lot better. We have a lot of confidence. These young players have stepped up and played much better in coverage phases. We got our return going a little bit against Jacksonville. We obviously have to get our punt return going a little bit more. At the end of the day, whatever we can do in that situation and in that moment to help our football team, that has been our focus and will continue to be our focus down the stretch.”

On the failed fake punt in Week 1 and if that has made the team hesitant to run another fake punt this season: 

“No, I do not think so. We felt like we had a great opportunity there, and if the punter stays outside, he might have ran all the way to Cleveland because we had a nice wall setup, and it should have been a big play for us and we made a mistake, We have punt fakes in every week. We are always going to be ready for the right situation, and whenever the head coach wants us to dial them up, we better be ready to dial them up.”

On how much more Browns coaches are checking in with players about their mental health this season, given the potential mental fatigue of the unique circumstances: 

“That is a great question. Obviously, I am not qualified and I am not a doctor, but I can sense players’ moods. I can sense when the jovial guy is not being jovial or the guy who is normally quiet seems more quiet than he usually is. As coaches and as players, we always have to check that. I am a kind of guy who I like to tease, joke and be sarcastic. That is kind of the way I was raised and being from Northeast Ohio, I think we are all kind of like that in a way, but I do try to make sure these guys are doing OK, especially the practice squad guys. (K) Matt McCrane has been here almost all year, and we have guys that have done a great job on practice squad all year long and making sure they are doing OK because a lot of them are staying in the hotel and a lot of them do not have anybody around them and they do not have family here. The human aspect of it, you try to make sure that those guys are doing OK. You do demand a lot from them when they are in the building, when they are out on the practice field and in the meetings and making sure they are doing OK, but I like to check in with them, especially either on the side or I get on that Zoom meeting 10 minutes early and the guys that are popping up, I am asking about how things are going and how their life is going. (LB) Montrel Meander had his little girl yesterday holding this little girl before the Zoom meeting started. That that type of stuff keeps people going. That is a great question, and it is a very important question.”

On if S Tedric Thompson will be available to contribute on special teams this week: 

“Tedric is a very good football player. I am glad he is here. I am glad he is a Cleveland Brown. I am not sure how far we are going to get with him on special teams this week, but I am sure down the line we are going to need him at some point.”

On if he could believe that Ravens K Justin Tucker missed a FG last week: 

“No, I had to double-check. When I saw it on tape, I am like, ‘No, that really did not happen. That had to go through.’ That is Justin Tucker. It always goes through when it is inside of 40. When it is inside of 50, the dude does not miss. He is automatic. He is a great kicker. Unfortunately, he missed it last week. In fact, when I saw he did miss, I was bummed out that he missed it this past week instead of the weekend coming up. He is a great player.”

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