STC Mike Priefer (9.26.19)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

Opening statement:

“Obviously, a big week for our football team, an exciting week, divisional opponent op the road. This one, we have to go get. Another reason why it is exciting for me is my youngest son who attends the U.S. Naval Academy is a junior. He is bringing over 13 of his buddies, and guess who is buying the tickets? My wife and I. He wanted to get 20, and my wife said 10 so I compromised closer to me wife’s number than my son’s number so I do not get in trouble at home. We are buying 14 tickets for those guys and going to be some rowdy midshipmen up cheering for the Cleveland Browns during the game, probably up in the nosebleed seats on Sunday afternoon.”


On if there was a rivalry established with former Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg:

“No because I did not face Coach Rosburg very often. When I did, he usually got after us pretty good. Coach Rosburg has retired and his assistant took over and Coach (Ravens special teams coordinator Chris) Horton is doing a phenomenal job. He is picking up right where Jerry left off. With (Ravens Head Coach John) Harbaugh being in change and being an ex-special teams coordinator – he was one of the best, if not the best in the NFL when he was coaching special teams – there is going to be a big emphasis for Baltimore with their special teams, as it always is. It is going to poise a great challenge for us, and I look forward to it. I kind of like that. We went up against a good special teams unit Sunday night against the Rams, and I thought we did pretty well. Hopefully, we will do the same or better on Sunday afternoon, but we have our work cut out for us. They have a great kicker, a great punter, a veteran snapper – he is one of the best in the business. They have (Ravens CB) Cyrus Jones returning the punt, kind of a late bloomer. I kind of liked him coming out of Alabama a few years ago, but he is really starting to come into his own last year and this year. The rookie kickoff returner (Ravens RB Justice Hill), who is built like a rock and he is going to run people over unless we wrap him up. I talked to our team about gang tackling him and getting to the ball. It is going to be a very challenging afternoon for us, no matter who the special teams coordinator is because they have good players.”


On LS Charley Hughlett being listed on the injury report and if it is cause for concern:

“No, I think Charley is doing fine. He practiced yesterday with no issues at all.”


On if he has ever seen the drop-kick like the Ravens did last Sunday:

“Never seen that. We showed that today in the meeting. I have never seen it before. I do not know what the rule is. They have to come up with something because that was offside, illegal formation, illegal motion or something. It had to be some sort of penalty. I do not know. I am sure the league has not seen it before either. I guess that is them trying to be creative. You can fair catch that ball because the ball never hit the ground after the drop-kick. As soon as his foot hits it, if it goes straight up in the air, you can fair catch it, which Kansas City wisely did. I do not know. We are ready for anything. He has a really good onside kick and surprise onside. We will be ready for all that stuff.”


On if teams are being more creative on special teams because of the new kickoff rules:

“I guess that is thinking outside the box. I do not understand it. It obviously did not work, but it could work, I guess. I think we do some creative things with our kickoff coverage unit in terms of the kicker putting the ball in the corner and letting our guys cover, twist and move and make our guys hard to block. Our guys have embraced that. So far this year, we have done a pretty good job of kickoff coverage. Every week poses a challenge or threat based on who their returner is and what schemes they use and how they block and this is a very well coached team. My creative thinking out of the box is how we can cover better, cover what they do well and stop what they do well.”


On P Jamie Gillan’s punt that went out of bounds:

“It does happen unfortunately, especially young punters or even older punters. He had the one that you are talking about is the 21-yarder. I think he rushed it. He did not feel any pressure. We blocked it up perfect, but he felt like he had to get it out of there quick. Maybe I over-coached him on that, which I probably did. Dropped it inside and punched at it rather than kicking it, but he made a mistake and he learned from it. He punted the ball well yesterday on a windy day in practice. I think the one thing about Jamie, the great thing about him is that he has a short memory. He came back, that one we punted from the two with 4:56 I believe to go in the game. We are down by seven, and that game could have been over right there. If we kick a line drive punt with that returner and they return it to the 30 and they kick a field goal, they are up 10 and the game is over. He launched a 51-yarder, and it was a 5.28 hang time. It was a phenomenal kick. (CB) Tavierre (Thomas) went down and we tackled them for a 51-yard net. Then our defense got a turnover, (CB) Juston Burris had an interception right after that. That to me shows that he has some mental toughness. That was very encouraging for us to see that.”


On what makes Thomas a strong special teams player:

“He loves it. It is so important to him. We have a locker room full of those guys. He is fast, he is tough he is smart and he studies. He was very well prepared for that game like you will have to be again this weekend. We put him in spots where it is going to be more difficult for him than for other guys because we are going to put him blocking their best gunner or going against their best kickoff cover guy when he is kickoff return and in every phase. We even have him on the field with block team because he does such a good job in that phase as well. Tavierre like a lot of our guys have bought into what we are coaching and their attitude has been good. We have some leaders starting to emerge in that locker room on special teams, and usually, those are the younger guys anyway. I like the direction that we are going. We just have to start having success and helping our football team in all facets, not just covering a punt here and covering a kickoff there. We have to get our return game going consistently and we have to help our offense with field position, as well.”

On the number of games special teams has a significant outcome on the result in a strong year:

“If we play sound and solid and we play almost even and win the field position battle, obviously, those are the games I think you are talking about that are you should do that and that is what you expect. You are talking about games that we go out and win. You are hoping three. A big return that sets up a field goal at the end of the game. A big kickoff return in the second quarter that puts you up by 10. We talk about making impact plays across the board. One thing that people fail to realize – you guys understand because you guys cover it so much – a lot of people fail to realize is you can make an impactful play on kickoff coverage. You tackle them at the 17-yard line with two minutes to go in the game and then they got to go 83 instead of 75. That can be an extra 10-15-20 seconds, whatever the case may be. Or you kick off from the 50 and pin them deep on a high, short kick, you attack them at the eight, where you force a turnover or you force penalty, all those little things that we talk about and emphasize all the time. Try to make an impact play every single time you go out there because you really do not know when that play is going to occur throughout the course of the game. You do not know if it is going to be the first quarter, the fourth quarter, overtime when that opportunity is going to arrive. That is what we try to prepare for every time we go out there.”


On if kick return is more challenging with the increased number of touchbacks and limited return opportunities:

“It depends on the time of the year. Right now, we are going to get more touchbacks as it gets colder and windier in the stadiums that we play in. We hope to get some more opportunities. We are going to prepare every week like we are going to have opportunities. We are not going to have 15-18 returns. We are going to have two or three returns that we do really well in practice that we prepare for, knowing that we will not get as many opportunities. As the year goes on, we hope to get a few more. Baltimore’s kickoff team is outstanding. They have been challenging people like we have. They have been covering kicks really, really well. We intend on being prepared. We are going to be prepared for them to challenge us, and we have to go out there with that mentality. A good kicker like (Ravens K Justin) Tucker is going to kick touchbacks when he wants to, but if they want to challenge is, we have to be ready. We just have to make smart decisions back there with the football and not bringing one out from seven-eight deep like we did when we had (former Vikings and Bears WR/KR) Cordarrelle Patterson and we were doing that all the time. He was pretty good at it.”


On where Tucker ranks in the pantheon of NFL kickers:

“I think Justin Tucker is the best kicker in the game right now, and he has been for years. He makes pretty much everything. Their offense crosses the 30-40 yard line, it is almost automatic. We have to put some pressure on him off the edge and pressure on him inside. We have to do some creative stuff with field goal block to try to put some doubt in his head that he is a confident young man. He has always been a good kicker. Hopefully, he stubs his toe in pregame. It is hard to stop a guy like that.”


On kicking in M&T Bank Stadium: 

“I do not have a ton of experience at Baltimore. It has been several years since I coached there, but I would imagine it is like any outdoor stadium. You are going to have days that are beautiful like I think it is going to be on Sunday and you are going to have days that are cold and windy. About six or seven years ago, we played there and it was snowing like mad. It was that weekend where the whole field was covered in snow. Obviously, it is not going to snow Sunday, but you just do not know what you are going to get so we go out there. I do not worry about it during the week. I think the guys do not talk about it, but they will check the weather on the side. When we show up on gameday, that Sunday morning late morning for pregame, we will kind of figure out our gameplan from there.”


# # #