STC Mike Priefer (9.13.19)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

Opening statement:

“Good morning everybody. I hope you guys are doing well and having a good week. A different week for us obviously playing on Monday night. I loved our schedule. I love what Freddie did with our schedule, bringing the guys in Monday obviously to watch that tape and Tuesday was a bonus day, working on a lot of technique, fundamentals and little things that we needed to correct from the game on Sunday. Then we kind of got into a normal week with Wednesday being a Tuesday, yesterday being a Wednesday and today being a Thursday. It has been a good week so far. Guys are working hard. We are getting focused. They are all big games, but coming off a game like last Sunday, this one is going to be huge for us.”


On special teams performing well last Sunday:

“Obviously, it is a team game, and anytime you lose like that, there is really no time to take solace in anything. I liked the way our guys did some things. They played fast. They played with good effort. The biggest thing I took away from it, was that they played hard the entire game. When things got out of hand in the fourth quarter, our guys kept playing hard. I think we have the right men in that locker room to rebound from that game that happened on Sunday. That is what I take solace in the fact is the guys played hard. They had great effort. They ran it the whole game. We did some good things. We did not do enough good things, and we have to keep getting better.”


On identifying what led to K Austin Seibert’s missed PAT:

“I did. He did exactly what he was not doing the last three-four weeks when he ended up winning the job. He normally doesn’t kick that way or he wouldn’t be here. It was just poor technique. I am not going to make excuses for him, and he would not make this excuse, but we scored so quickly and he never really got a chance to get into the game. He needs to be more prepared than that. It is kind of like I tell the guys all the time, it is a sudden change. Anything that happens fast like pick six, a return for a touchdown or anything good that happens for us, obviously, bam you score and you have to be ready. Maybe mentality he was not quite prepared. He came back on the second extra point and stroked it. That is what we expect from him every single time because he is good enough to do that.”


On P Jamie Gillan’s performance:

“Other than the first one, I thought that he had a really good day. The first one, we were very fortunate because when you punt from backed up, the hit and rolls are nice but you can’t count on those, rely on those after a returner comes up and he even fair catches that ball, they get the ball across the 50, which is a no-no when you are kicking from backed up. The other four punts I believe he had, he really hit the ball well. We covered well. We protected well for the most part. Now, we have to keep working on the fundamentals there, but other than that, it was a pretty good day for Jamie.”


On if RB D’Ernest Johnson will replace RB Dontrell Hilliard if Hilliard is out:

“More than likely, I think so. He has done a good job for us. He almost popped the one, his last one and his only return of the game. He only got out to about the 25, but he was one block away from making a much bigger play. It was pretty well blocked. We just have to finish. That is going to be the emphasis today when we talk about kickoff returns, is finishing blocks and playing penalty-free like it normally is. That is the one thing, if there is any big disappointments other than a missed PAT, it is the couple of penalties that we had on the one punt return play. The kickoff return penalty was questionable, but I came in here preaching when I got here in January that we have to reduce the penalties, and we have to reduce the penalties, especially in the return game. You can’t give the offense bad field position and expect them to go 80-85 yards every time. We have to do a better job in that regard.”


On the Browns widespread penalties last week:

“I know our head coach said that we have to be more disciplined across the board, and I agree with him. I am in charge of special teams so that is how I am going to really talk about is our special teams unit have to play penalty free. We have to play aggressive, we have to play fast, we have to play with great effort, and we have to be the tougher team every time we go out there, but we can’t make silly mistakes. We can’t get too hands-y on punt return and hold a guy. We can’t accidently or non-accidently – it does not matter – jab a guy in the facemask. That is illegal. Those are the things that we have to continue to emphasize that we need to eliminate from our game or we are going to be in bad field position more times than that, and that is unacceptable.”


On how challenging is it to adjust his coaching technique with the NFL special teams’ rules changing each year:

“I think it is great what the NFL does. I think it is great that they look at how to make this game safer for the young men to play the game so that they can continue to be healthy when they leave the game. I kind of look at it as a benefit for us because I have taken a lot of pride over the years, even here this year with the new emphasis on the rules, into making those adjustments faster than anybody else. That is what we try to do, whether or not we do it. That is up to our players and how quickly they buy into what we are doing. At the end of the day, the NFL is trying to make it a safer play. We kept the kickoff and kickoff return in the game, which is absolute necessary because that has been part of our game forever, but they made it safer. We are going in the right direction. The challenge is there, but everybody is going through the same challenge. The quicker that we make those adjustments, the better off we are going to be.”


On if to teach proper technique or officiate the new double-team blocking rules on kickoff:

“It is probably a tougher rule to officiate because it happened so fast. The one that they called on D’Ernest, he only blocked the one man. The double team we had from the front line got pushed into him so it looked like he was blocking someone else when he was not. Their guy obviously did it. It is hard. I think part of the challenge for me is we need to draw up schemes that do not put those guys in situations where they are going to get penalized, and I think that is the challenge. That is what we try to do is get the two halfbacks and the returner – the two guys that do not have the ball back there – obviously, normally the halfbacks put them in a position where they are not going to get penalized. Their technique and the schemes that we teach, keep them out of harm’s way when it comes to penalties so of speak. That is our job.”


On the double-team block penalty getting called frequently last week and if he expects those numbers to decline during the year:

“I think if it is there, they are going to call it. I know the big emphasis was in the summer the officials told us it was going to be called. They are trying take it out the game. It is for safety issue, and I understand that. We are going to keep teaching the way we have been teaching now for the last two years since they made this rule and put this rule in place. We just have to continue to emphasize playing penalty free and making smart decisions and the point of attack because it happens fast now. My big thing – I have told you guys this before back in the spring – we tell our guys all the time, ‘Do not give the official an excuse to throw a flag.’ If it is going to be close, expect them to throw it. If I am grabbing a guy on punt return and I am a corner on punt return, I am grabbing a guy and it looks like a little tug, if it looks like a penalty, it probably is a penalty. Do not even do that. We are going to teach punching, not grabbing. Doing the little things that are necessary to eliminate penalties and that is going to be our focus from here on out. It has already has been, but will continue to be here on out.”


On former Browns WR Josh Cribbs being on the initial list for the Pro Football Hall of Fame consideration announced earlier this week and potential for more return specialists to be recognized:

“He was a great one as you guys know. A lot of you guys probably covered him. A great returner, a good person. I do not know him very well, but I have talked to him a few times. I know that he meant a lot to the City of Cleveland, and I think the City of Cleveland means a lot to Josh. I congratulate him on a phenomenal career. I love the fact that he was nominated for the Hall of Fame. I hope he gets a bunch of votes. I hope he gets in because he did some great things. I know we coached against him and he was not a fun man to coach against. He is one of those guys that he was not going down easy. He may not have been the fastest, but he was going to be the toughest and the strongest, and he was going to hit the seam full speed. You are going to have to have a lot of people around him to get him down. I congratulate he and his family. I hope he gets in.”


On if there is any concern having a starter returning punts, specifically in reference to WR Jarvis Landry fielding a punt last week:
“A guy like Jarvis, he is such a team guy. He is the one that came up to me and says, ‘I am ready to go if you need me.’ Then, we put him in there. He is a guy who you know he is going to catch the ball. You know he is going to get what he can get. He is going to make good decisions back there. It does not bother me at all. If (Head Coach) Freddie (Kitchens) says we can use him, we are going to use him when we can. Hopefully, D’Ernest can continue to develop and Dontrell comes back healthy. (WR) Antonio (Callaway) comes back here in a few weeks. The more guys the better obviously, but having a guy like Jarvis back there kind of makes me feel good that he can do some good things for us and put us in the right positions.”


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