STC Mike Priefer (12.31.20)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

On if there is a common denominator with K Cody Parkey’s recent missed kicks: 

“Honestly, the last couple have been completely different. One he pushed right, and one he pulled left. We have talked about it. He has worked on it. He is working on it again today. It is frustrating for him, as well as for our football team. He knows he has to make those kicks and he needs to make them stretch to help us obviously to win this game and hopefully keep going.”

On the impact of schedule changes this week on the special teams unit: 

“It is not anything that we have not faced before. If you guys remember the Jacksonville week, I think we only practiced on Friday special teams-wise and went out and had one of our better games because guys can always go back to their techniques and go back to what has made them successful in the past and what has made us successful in the past. We have to keep our scheme simple. We have to go out and play fast. We know this team. We have studied this team. These guys have had now extra time to watch the tape on their own. I have given them cut-ups to watch. We talk about the direction that we need to go in terms of how we need to attack the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is not anything that we have not faced before or that other teams have not faced. There are no excuses. We are going to press on and go out and help our team win.”

On how Head Coach Kevin Stefanski has handled adversity throughout the season: 

“He has done a great job. Kevin and (Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager) Andrew (Berry) have done a great job. The best thing about it is those two work so well together. The coaching staff and personnel staff work extremely well together. We understand the limitations that have been placed upon us this year, like other teams, in terms of the roster, bringing guys in and out and that sort of thing. Both men have done such a good job as leaders in their respective positions. The other thing is I think we have a good coaching staff. We have guys who do not have any egos. We have a bunch of guys who are willing to learn, take direction and contribute in a way that we can and do our job at a high level. It goes hand in hand, those two guys working hand in hand together and us working with the entire personnel staff. As coaches, too, this week when we are going to have limitations on who we can use on special teams and who are the guys that are starting at linebacker or safety or corner or tight end or whatever the case may be, at the end of the day, we all have to work together to help our football team win a game. That is the primary goal, obviously.”

On if there was anything wrong on the hold during Parkey’s missed PAT last week, given it looked like Parkey bent over and talked to P Jamie Gillan after the kick, as well as if the specialists can go down to the stadium to kick with the facility being closed due to contact tracing: 

“We thought about doing that. There are a lot of logistical issues that are involved in that in that terms of getting guys down there. It is not that we can’t do it, but Cody got work on his own I think at a high school field by himself yesterday. He will do the same thing today if we have to. We will end up getting our work in. The good thing is Cody is a veteran and (LS) Charley (Hughlett) is a veteran. Jamie will find a field and he will just go bombs away. It is like recess for Jamie. It will get him out of the house and get him out of his condo or apartment, wherever he lives. He is like a five-year old kid going for recess, which is great. He will get his work in. He got it in yesterday and he will get some in tomorrow hopefully at the facility. We will be OK.

“In terms of him bending over, I think he was bending over in frustration more than anything. The hold was fine. The snap and hold were outstanding and protection was good on that one, as well.”

On if Parkey’s missed kicks being different are more or less related to a mental aspect and how he helps Parkey through it if it is a mental aspect: 

“Cody is such an even-keel guy. We talked about this before, he handles everything quite well. Typically, he will not miss two in a row, not even in practice. I think he will bounce back this week. He knows how important he is to the success of this football team. I am not into predictions, but I feel really good about him going out performing well on Sunday.”

On the decision to have Gillan attempt the 61-yard FG last week: 

“We were in a situation we had talked about and we talked about it all year, Kevin and I, and when that right situation would come up. A 61-yarder in December would be very difficult for Cody to make, and Jamie obviously has a much stronger leg so we felt like that was the right time to do it. We knew we were going to have to cover once they put (NY Jets WR Braxton) Berrios back. They were not totally prepared. They only had nine on the field, and our guys went out there and did a good job. He just did not get a good piece of the ball. He had hit with me on the sticks before the game in pregame and then right before the game we went out before the team came out, and he hit a couple 55-yarders with plenty to spare in both directions actually so we really felt good about that opportunity. He just did not hit the ball well enough.”

On nervousness when an opponent attempts to return a short FG attempt:

“That is something that we talk about. We coached that up before kind of periodically. We worked on it actually on Friday, a couple of days prior to that game. The way (G) Joel Bitonio covered that kick, I thought about putting him on kickoff team. He just said he was too tired after that play to do that on a consistent basis (laughter). What an amazing athlete to go down there and tackle that returner who has great, great quickness. Our guys did a good job of covering. They understood the situation. Charley reminded them when he went on the field, and they did what they were coached to do. Hopefully, if we get that opportunity again, we have to hit a much better ball.”

On potentially missing two Browns LBs and two Ss impacts the special teams units on Sunday:

“It was funny, on Saturday before we left to go back to New York, at about 5 o’clock, (assistant special teams coach) Doug Colman and I were scrambling because we had just found out all of those receivers were not going to make the trip. We were joking that our depth chart looked like a preseason game No. 4 depth chart where it has red pen all over it because you have all of the changes with guys in and out. The guys stepped up who had not practiced in a lot of areas. The guys stepped up and did a nice job on Sunday and played hard. We did have some success on teams. This week, we will hopefully have a little bit more heads up here. For us, it is playoff time. Some of our players have already said it, this is a playoff game. It gets us in. Whatever we need to do, next man up or if it means (LB Sione) Takitaki is playing a lot of defense and special teams and if (LB) Tae Davis is playing a lot on defense and special teams and (LB) Elijah Lee, as well, they have to step up and go play. They understand that and they have great attitudes about it. I think they are ready for the challenge.”

On DT Sheldon Richardson’s two blocks last week:

“Those were huge plays. They kept us in the game on Sunday. Sheldon and I have been together now it is our third year – one year in Minnesota and it is our second year in Cleveland together. He has come close, and I am not kidding you guys, he has come close at least 30 times and he had never blocked on before. Those were his first two blocks, and it meant a lot to him and it meant a lot to our football team. He plays with great effort. He is always giving effort on that unit since I have coached him. I am real proud of him and what he brings to the table. Really, the first one he blocked, (DE) Myles (Garrett) could have blocked it. The second one, (CB) Tavierre (Thomas) could have blocked it or (DT) Vincent Taylor could have blocked it. We had a lot of guys getting in there. I am proud of the effort of that unit. That kept us the game. Hopefully, we can keep that going down the stretch.”

On if he would be open to changes in the offseason program, given C JC Tretter’s recent letter that this season showed that the offseason may not be as necessary as originally expected:

“I think it is going to change. I think this offseason proved that there are changes that we can live with. I would never eliminate it. I think it is extremely important to the development of our young players, especially our draft picks, our college free agents and really players who come from other teams to integrate them within our locker room and getting the players around each other. I have told you guys many a time last year, I love my job. I have the greatest job in the world because I get to work in the realm of football and I get to work with these young men who love the game of football. I do not have a better job, and part of keeping us all going in the spring is the team camaraderie, building a chemistry in the locker room and understanding and looking your players in the eyes and telling them what you expect from them, even though it is in the spring. I think it is a very, very valuable tool for any football team. I hope they do not eliminate it. I think that would be a mistake, but I know this offseason has proven… I understand where JC is coming from. I think JC is outstanding, and he has done a great job of leading the Players Association. At the end of the day, I hope it stays, and I just brought up the reasons why it should stay, the importance of it and what it means to a football team.”

# # #