STC Mike Priefer (12.19.19)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

Opening statement:

“Since I won’t see you guys before Christmas, Merry Christmas. You guys usually ignore special teams when you guys watch individual so I thought I would throw that out there. I hope everybody has a great holiday.”


On the grounds crew plowing the field for special teams:
“They have done that three or four times this year. Our field guys are awesome. They are out there shagging balls for us, holding down the nets so it does not smash into the GM’s window. They take good care of us around here. It was good work yesterday getting outside. It was pretty windy. I do not know how windy it will be on Sunday, but it was nice to get out in the cold letting (P) Jamie (Gillan) see the flight of the ball because obviously, we can’t do that indoors. It was a good day, a good day yesterday.”


On what are the Ravens are doing well on special teams during their 10-game winning streak:

“They have the best kicker at least in the AFC. I think (Ravens K)  Justin (Tucker) is a phenomenal kicker. He does not miss – 51 of 53 on PATs, and I know he has only missed one field goal. Very consistent. These guys play hard. They have good players. They signed (Ravens LB) L.J. Fort. He was with the Steelers for such a long time that you guys know him better than I do. They have signed him since we played them last. He is a really good player. No. 41 (Ravens DB/LB Anthony Levine Sr.) is a good player. No. 31 (Ravens DB/LB Brynden Trawick) is a good player. No. 28 (Ravens DB Jordan Richards) is a good player. No. 58 is a good player and on down the line. They have good personnel. They have veteran guys that play hard. They are well-coached. I know they had a rough game Thursday, and that is what I have been telling our guys. I said they are a little bit of embarrassed Thursday night against the Jets, who play hard on special teams, as well. A coach (Ravens Head Coach John) Harbaugh coached team being a former special teams coordinator and the pride he takes in it, we are going to get their best shot on Sunday afternoon. We know that. We have to be prepared for it physically, schematically and everything. Like usual, we have our work cut out for us. They also signed that returner (Ravens RS/WR) De’Anthony Thomas, who I thought was phenomenal when he first broke in the league back in Kansas City and then (Chiefs WR) Tyreek Hill came along and then they had some other great returners there which is why they let him go in Kansas City and Baltimore snatched him up. He has not really gotten going, but he is terrifyingly quick. He can ‘make you miss in a phone booth’ type guy and he also has great explosiveness. For a smaller athlete, he can break a lot of tackles. They are doing a lot of things well. They had a rough game last week, and I know we are going to get their best shot like I have been telling our guys all week.”


On how to improve kickoff return late in the season:

“Late in the season, early in the season and middle of the season, we have not done a whole lot kickoff return wise. We had a great game against Seattle and other than that, it has been a little bit hit or miss. I think we need to block better to be quite honest. I think we do not play as fast as we need to play. Like our kickoff team has been very good all year and to block a good kickoff team like Baltimore has, you have to play fast. You have to see the ball kick, turn and run, adjust your angle based on the returner, plant, turn and be ready to block before he breaks your 5-ard cushion. If you do not, it is very, very difficult to block good players and we have not done enough of that consistently this year. We have to keep working on it, work on it again today and tomorrow and get ready for Sunday.”


On if it would benefit K Austin Seibert to study Ravens K Justin Tucker or if the position is more individualized:

“Justin has a different technique. He has a little bit longer approach. He is a different body type. Justin is a taller, leaner athlete. Austin is a shorter, squattier athlete. They are both very good at what they do. Obviously, Justin has been doing it a long time. Anytime you ask a young kicker to start studying too much – that is what he did. You remember when he had the struggles early in camp? He went home over the summer, had a great spring and went home over the summer and starts talking to different kickers, ‘Hey, we should check this out?’ ‘Hey, why do you not try this or try that?’ Next thing you know, he is not Austin Seibert anymore. He is somebody else. The reason he won the job is at some point in training camp we had talked to him enough and pounded to his head and say, ‘Hey, there is reason why we drafted you. You are a really, really good kicker.” Now, what he has to do is be more consistent doing what he does best. Plant foot, follow through, head down, all the little things we talk to him about that he has improved a lot this year. I am really pleased with what the year he has had. I know he had the miss on Sunday. We can’t miss that, especially indoors. He is too good of a kicker to miss that kick. Both he and Jamie as young players have developed and gotten a lot better throughout the season.”


On how big of learning experience last offseason was for Seibert:

“He thought he was doing the right thing. It was not like he was trying to change who he is. I think he was trying to get better by that experience, but if you do not remember what got you there and then improve from that from that point of your career, then you are going to be in trouble. He got himself in a little bit of trouble, and we recognized right away and we changed it right away. He has progressively gotten better throughout the year. He has a lot of confidence. He is amazing the way his elevation into his kicks are unbelievable. We talk about it all the time. Timing so you do not get blocked off the edge; elevation so you do not get blocked up the middle; and then of course, accuracy. Those are the three key combos for a place kicker and he has all three. He just has to continue to be more consistent.”


On what makes a special teams coordinator qualified for head coaching positions:

“I have answered this question a lot. The great thing about special teams coordinators is that we get to work with the whole team. Even our backup quarterback is our backup holder. We work with every position – offensive linemen in field goal, defensive linemen in field goal block and some of the field goal, as well and then everywhere in between. (WR) Jarvis Landry could be our punt returner if we need him to be in a pinch. At the end of the day, I get to know everybody on the team and I think you develop your own leadership style with every different type of athlete, every different type of position group and every different type of special teams unit. When you do that, you have enough experience and you have that leadership ability, I think there are a lot of good special teams in this league that could become great head coaches if given the opportunity. Why we are not given more opportunities? I have no idea. Maybe that is a stigma that it is only special teams, which I completely disagree with obviously. What John has done there in Baltimore has proven that a very good special teams coordinator who also happens to be a really good leader can be a good head coach.”


On P Jamie Gillan, his development this season and his potential:

“I said it last week and I was asked if he was a Pro Bowl punter, like I said, I didn’t think he was at this time, but he has Pro Bowl talent. He has developed in a very positive manner. Every week, he has gotten better. He is a really good holder. He is a really good athlete. He can make adjustments to his punting that a lot of guys who aren’t quite the athlete can’t make, even at his young age, and he is still learning. He doesn’t understand the game of football like anybody in this room really does. He has come a long way in that regard. It is important to him. He has kind of a happy-go-lucky, goofy type of personality, which you like, but when it is time to work, he works. That is what I really like about him. He has gotten better every week.”


On Gillan working to improve his consistency:

“The coaching points would be a shorter approach. We have taken his jab step from almost a yard to almost a couple of inches or almost no jab step. We have tried to shorten his approach to make him more consistent. He has worked very, very hard on his drop. With his leg swing – a lot of times for a young punter the leg swing is not always there – but the timing of his drop and his leg swing is a little bit inconsistent, and the more he works on that, the better he is going to be.”


On if a win over the Ravens could provide a boost to the Browns moving forward after inconsistency in games throughout the season:

“What I like about this team is that we have done things that no other Cleveland team has done at least since the divisional realignment – we have beaten every team in the division in one year. We have the opportunity now to beat Baltimore twice and Cincinnati twice. As hard as that may be and as hard as that is going to be because Baltimore is such a great football team, we have accomplished a lot of things this year. The fact that two years ago this franchise was 0-16 and we are sitting here at 6-8 and we are complaining about it… I am more of the glass half-full guy so I am a really positive person and I am a really positive person so I look at the good things. You want to learn and correct the things that we haven’t done and you want to build on the things we have done well. If you look back, there are a lot of good things this football team has done offensively, defensively, special teams and everybody. The more we are consistent, the more we take care of some of the errors that we have made in all three phases, the quicker we are going to become a really good football team. I like where we are right now in terms of our attitude. I think yesterday’s practice was outstanding. It was high energy. Our guys come to play. The fact that we get to play a team that is going to the playoffs and that is going to win our division and play them at home in front of our crowd, it is going to be a really good afternoon. We just have to go play our game and see what happens.”


On stating he was a special teams coach lifer in his introductory press conference and why he never aspired to be a head coach:

“I aspire to be a head coach. I would love to be a head coach. The way it was phrased when you guys spoke to me back when I was first introduced is I want to be the best special teams coordinator Cleveland has ever had. That is my goal. Now, would I like to be a head coach? Absolutely. Who wouldn’t? I would love to be up in front of the team and be the leader of that team, but right now, my job is to be the best special teams coordinator that I can be for this football team and for this franchise. I relish that job. I tell our guys every day, I thank the good Lord every single day for the opportunity to coach these young men because I firmly believe that this is a privilege. It is not a right. It is privilege to coach for the Cleveland Browns. It is privilege to coach in the National Football League. It is a privilege to coach these young men and try to help them become the best players that they can be and be the best people they can be. That is my job as a football coach in the National Football League, and I relish that opportunity. It is not like I don’t want to be a head coach. That is just not my main focus. My main focus is to be a great special teams coordinator.”


On if he has ever interviewed for an NFL head coaching job:

“I did. I think January of 2013 I interviewed for the Chicago Bears when Phil Emery was the general manager.”


On how the interview went:

“The interview was great because I knew I wasn’t going to get it. I wasn’t nervous at all. I looked good. My wife dressed me, and I looked the part. I even wore a red tie, a power tie. Phil is a great guy. I thought I knocked the interview out of the park. I was relaxed and confident, and if it happens, it happens. I am only 53 and I am still a young buck, but I know I have a lot of gray [hair] – a lot of wisdom.”


On if that was when the Bears hired Marc Trestman to be the team’s head coach:



On serving as interim coach in Minnesota when Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was unable to be on the sideline:

“Yeah, I found out the night before. I went to mass the night before, and (Vikings General Manager) Rick Spielman grabs me after mass and says, ‘By the way, Coach Zimmer had emergency surgery on his eye.’ I am like, ‘OK, I think I know where this is going.’ He said, ‘We want you to be the head coach.’ I said, ‘You got it.’ I got zero sleep. It was a Thursday night game. It was a great experience. I learned from it. We lost a tough, two-point loss. As my children continue to call me, they call me 0-1. ‘What’s up, 0-1?’ (laughter). That is my career head coaching record – 0-1.”


On being informed he would serve as interim head coach the night before the game:

“He had eye problems that year, and he was supposed to have surgery on Friday since it was a Thursday night game – a nationally televised game, of course. Unfortunately, he had surgery on Wednesday.”


On losing by two points and if there was a moment when he had to make a big decision in the game:

“There were a couple decisions in the game that were kind of cool. One, I threw a challenge flag when (Cowboys QB) Dak Prescott slid early. They gave him the first down. I threw the challenge flag, and they said he was down. We won the challenge. We stopped them on third down and they had to punt, and we went down to score with a minute or under a minute left. We went for two and didn’t get it.”


On being 1-0 on coaching challenges:

“1-0 on challenges but 0-1 in games, which is all that matters and why my children call me 0-1. My wonderful children – sarcasm. Can you believe my children are sarcastic?”


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