STC Mike Priefer (12.12.19)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

Opening statement:

“Good morning. I hope everybody is doing well. Obviously, a big ball game this weekend. I am also excited, my daughter Samantha who lives in Denver, she is going to fly out there and she will be at the game with some of her high school friends that she went to high school with in Denver when I was with the Broncos for a couple of years. Also, you guys may not know this, but Army-Navy is tomorrow so that is obviously a big game. Really, it is Navy-Army – kind of say it that way. We lost the last three so we have to get back on that winning streak.


“Obviously, a big game against the Cardinals. Excited about facing them. They are a well-coached team. They fake punts. They have surprise onside ready with their kickoff team. They do a really nice job with (Cardinals WR) Pharaoh Cooper returning the ball. He does a good job bouncing it outside trying to get to the edge with their kickoff returns. We have to be ready for a whole bunch of stuff against these guys, which makes my job a little bit harder but it is kind of fun. I will not get as much sleep, but that is OK, you guys do not care about me or my sleep deprivation. At the end of the day, it is a big weekend for our football team. We have a lot to prove. I think every time we go out there, a team like us, we have a bunch of young guys, especially on special teams flying around. We have to go out and do a great job for the most part like we have been doing most of the year. We have to do a better job on kickoff return obviously, but some of the things we are doing are pretty good and pretty special. I am excited about that. We just have to keep building.”


On NFL Ks ability to succeed with one team after not performing as well with another, in reference to former Browns and Cardinals K Zane Gonzalez and former NFL K Phil Dawson:

“I think with Zane and I worked Zane out when he was at Arizona State and he had all the talent in the world. Maybe he was not ready. Some guys when they get to the league, they are not maybe mature enough or they are not quite ready for the bright lights of the NFL or whatever the case may be. I do not know what it was with Zane, I do not know him that well but I do know he has done a very good job this year. He is well coached and does a good job on kickoff, field goals, everything. Cleveland is a tough place to kick. I think we all know that. I think that is what I like so much about (K) Austin (Seibert) before we drafted him was his maturity level, his confidence level. That has kind of made him fight through some of the misses that he has had, especially at home.”


On P Jamie Gillan deserves to go to the Pro Bowl:

“No, I do not think so. No, I am just going to be honest. I would let you know if I thought he did. I think Jamie is a very good punter. I think he is going to get better and better and better, and there are better punters than him right now out there that have performed better this year. You just have to be more consistent. Is he a Pro Bowl talent punter? Absolutely. Is he ready to be on the Pro Bowl roster this year? I do not think so. I think there are two or three out of AFC punters that have probably had better years than him. Honestly, we have to protect better for him, we have to cover better for him and he has to perform more consistently, and we will get him to that level.”


On if WR KhaDarel Hodge did what he was supposed to do on the onside kick at the end of the game:

“No, he was kind of the speed bump. (Head Coach) Freddie (Kitchens) did a great job, we called timeout. He always asks me right before an onside kick – I think we have had maybe three against us this year – ‘Do you want to call timeout?’ The other two, they lined up how I thought they were going to lineup and they did pretty much have the same kick I thought they would kick. Cincinnati came out in something different. I am looking and I said, ‘No, let’s call a timeout.’ Freddie calls timeout, and we bring the guys over. Because of the way their forces we deployed, so to speak, I had a good idea of what they might do. It was either going to be a slow roller or try to hit it and ricochet type kick – that is what we call it. The last thing I told KhaDarel and (CB) T.J. Carrie was ‘Do not let the ball hit you.’ Of course, he will remind you of that. He was supposed to get out of the way. I think he had enough time to get out of the way and (RB) D’Ernest Johnson was 20-25 yards behind him ready to recover it. We were ready for it. He just has  to either olé it or he has got to try and catch it. I told him if his abs were a little bit more washboard like – like mine were back in the day when I was 25 – the ball would of ricocheted back and they would of recovered it so thank God his abs did not have too much of a wash board (laughter). T.J. Carrie did a phenomenal job recovering that ball for us.”


On Seibert’s 53-yard field goal and his range going that direction last week:

“The range going into that direction, I had told Freddie was right at 53-55. It was a crazy wind. The wind was really swirling different than most days. The good thing is on Wednesday they went down there and got some work in. The winds were a little bit different, but it gave Austin a ton of confidence. He did a great job last Wednesday. We film all that stuff and chart it all. Watched that film with him, he did a phenomenal job last Wednesday. It gave him a ton of confidence. He had a great pregame going into the Dawg Pound end – would not have been that far. We had an incomplete pass to stop the clock I think with 20 seconds left in the third quarter, which gave a chance to kick it going towards our locker room. I would have requested a timeout there, had we not gotten the first down and had we not stopped the clock. We called timeout and let him kick that direction, which he is more confident anyway. Man, I was proud of him. Great protection. Snap, hold and kick were perfect, and he played the wind perfectly. It kind of drew back in and went right down the middle. It was a big play for us.”


On Ks doing well kicking into the Dawg Pound Sunday:

“Yeah, I know. (Cincinnati K) Randy (Bullock) did a good job for Cincinnati. He is a strong kid, a strong kicker. He did a really nice job. I talked to him after the game, he was pretty proud of himself, like most young guys are as you should be.”


On why Ks performed better than the season average last week kicking into the Dawg Pound despite a crazy wind:

“I do not know. It was [a crazy wind]. It was very crazy. You hit a true ball, it should go through. If you do not worry about it and just go out there. I am telling you, and I know we talked about this before but Phil Dawson has said, ‘You just hit your true ball, if it goes through, it goes through. Sometimes there are forces you can’t control that are going to push that ball left or right.’ I was hoping that would happen to Randy, but it did not.”


On if the Browns have had to adjust on how to take or cover onside kicks, given new kickoff rules:

“Sure, absolutely. The cool thing is as a coach, you are always learning. You are always finding out different ways to attack certain looks. The more tape I watch with other guys around the league are doing, I am not afraid to not copy but maybe take some things and take some coaching points that I see from other teams. (Bengals Special Teams Coach) Darrin (Simmons) did a good job for Cincinnati. That was a good play. That is another way of doing it. We have our way of doing things, but I am always learning and always trying to get better in every phase in all six phases in everything that we do, whether it is field goal protection, field goal block, punt protection, whatever the case may be. I think anytime you go into it thinking you know it all, you are going to be in trouble. I am trying to always learn and try to improve our team in that regard.”


On if the specialists stay at FirstEnergy Stadium long enough during the practice week to learn how to judge the wind:

“They are down there probably a good 45 minutes to an hour, including warming up, getting used to the wind trying to figure things out. (LS) Charley (Hughlett) snapping the ball in to the wind, against the wind, with the cross wind and trying to keep his spiral tight. Of course, Jamie just catching punt snaps or catching field goal snaps. We work on all that stuff when we go down there. It is probably a good 45 minutes to an hour that they are down there.”


On State Farm Stadium being an advantage for specialists:

“We are fired up about being there, I know that. It is funny because I told our guys, ‘Take advantage of that stadium, but do not take it for granted.’ In other words, do not go in there thinking I do not have to worry about technique. I can go out and just do what I do, and hopefully it work out. No, they still need to focus on catching the field goal snap. We need to focus on snapping the ball. We need to focus on our kickoff steps and our field goal steps. All those things that we work on constantly to be successful in the windy stadium, we have to do the same thing and just take advantage of the great weather and the great venue.”


On how personnel changes on defense have affected special teams:

“Every year, it is the same. Sometimes it is linebackers, sometimes it is safeties, sometimes it is tight ends, defensive ends or running backs. It is my job at the beginning of the year to make sure that we train enough guys to be ready that when the attrition does start and whenever it starts that we need to be ready for it. I think the good teams that we have and we have enough good backups that have done a nice job of stepping up and play well on special teams for us. (WR) Damion Ratley played three phases on this past Sunday. (S) J.T. Hassell came up from the practice squad, and he is making plays on kickoff and doing a good job for us there. Every year, you are going to have guys. If you have a good roster, you have guys stepping up and like I said, it is my job to make sure that they are ready when their time is called. I talk to the practice squad guys about that all the time  When your number is called, you have to be ready. That is why I think you need good practice squad players as well to train them to be ready to play on Sundays.”


On if Cardinals P Andy Lee is still the same high-level player as past years:

“Yeah, he still has it. When he has a little bit of time back there, he really bombs a good ball and they have gunners, too. They gave up the long one against Pittsburgh last week, which I think up until that point, they had only given up maybe 4 or 5 yards a return. I think he is having a real good year.”


On how thin air may increase Seibert’s range:
“Is there thin air in Arizona? I had no idea. I know it is desert air. I know it is indoors. I will tell you what, if they have the stadium open, there will be a little bit of a breeze in there. When that happens, the ball does travel a little bit better. I think anytime you go into an indoor stadium, you are thinking 53-yard field goal and then beyond depending on how he is hitting the ball in pregame. Then at the end of the game or end of the half, you might have to extend that out a little bit. I did not know Arizona was at altitude. I know Denver is.”


On Gillan’s dad participating in the flyover last week:

“That was cool. Jamie had told me the week before that they were going to do that. He is like a little kid any way, and he was even more of a little kid. I know he is really proud of his father and what his father has accomplished in the military and proud of his family. I was happy he and his dad and his whole family. I thought that was a really neat moment, and I do not think that has ever been done before where a father is piloting the plane that his son is playing in a game before the game in the pregame ceremony type thing. I was really happy for that whole family. It was cool.”


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