STC Mike Priefer (9.5.19)

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer:

Opening statement:

“Good morning guys. I have shaved for you guys so I hope you guys appreciate that. I hate shaving ever since my military days. It had been about a good six-seven days and my wife was even getting on me. It is so gray now. I have to shave it so hopefully, it looks pretty good. I hope you guys are doing well.”


On K Austin Seibert saying he needed a bit of a realignment following inconsistency earlier this year:

“He was jamming himself a little bit with his plant foot and that caused some inconsistencies with his follow through and leg swing and follow through and ball contact. It was just a little tweak that he found. We watched some tape together, figured it out and worked on it. Sent him down to the stadium twice this week – Monday and then yesterday – with the snapper (Charley Hughlett) and the holder to get some extra work in. It is still a little bit of a working progress, but he has found a little bit more consistent leg swing and follow through. I think that he is on the right track.”


On tweaking those types of kicking mechanics are more common than publicly known:

“Absolutely, especially kicking field goals, with the snap, hold, the tilt and everything that we are working with (P) Jamie (Gillan) on, as well, as the holder. He has come a long, long way since the spring and he has become a really good holder. He is such a good athlete and picked it up really quick. I think they have all done a good job of working well with each other this past week or two. Hopefully, that extra work at the stadium – we are going to do some more field goals today and more punts tomorrow. We will continue working on getting ready for Sunday.”


On Gillan’s long-term potential:

“Honestly, that is why he made this football team. I think the safe bet would have been to go with (Vikings P) Britton (Colquitt). He is more consistent, and he has been around a long time. I think it would have been very difficult to let a guy like Jamie out of the building. He is so talented and has such a big leg swing. The sky is the limit for him. I think he is just scratching the surface on how good he can be and how good of a punter and holder he can be in this league. I just think he is so talented that we just have to make sure that we channel that energy and talent and hopefully, get as many consistent punts as we possibly can.”


On if the Browns had a sense other NFL teams were interested in Gillan:

“That is a great question. I do not know the answer to that. You would have to talk to (General Manager) John (Dorsey), (Assistant General Manager) Eliot (Wolf) and the personnel guys. I do not pay attention to that. Special teams coordinators on other teams mentioned to me, ‘Wow, this guy is really good. Where did you find him?’ I said, ‘I did not find. I went down and worked him out because I was told to. Who wants to go to Arkansas Pine-Bluff?’ No, actually, it was a nice area. It is a really nice town. I had a good time. The coaching staff is great. They were really good to me. Jamie had a bunch of players out there and all of his ex-teammates out there watching him punt and making fun of him, making fun of the way that he throws the ball. He can spin in with a rugby throw but he can’t throw overhand very well. We are working on that so that he can throw some fakes down the line.”


On Gillan’s progress as a holder:

“That was a big factor in the final decision. That is why the last game was important for him to go out and hold well for us like he did. He is such a good athlete. He picked up on it pretty quickly. When he first got here, remember he did not do it in college. He did everything in college, kicking, punting, kicking field goals and everything. He never even practiced holding before. When we worked him out, we saw that he was raw, but he was talented and he has great hands and is a very good athlete as you guys know. In the decision making process, it was a big deal. He showed enough in that last second preseason game and throughout the spring and summer that he has the ability to do it.”


On if the Browns would consider Gillan kicking a last-second FG at a long distance:

“I think Austin would be the best beat. He has such a strong leg, as well. He would be the guy.”


On if RB Dontrell Hilliard will return punts and kickoffs:

“Dontrell right now, he has come a long way, too. He returned kicks in the NFL for Cleveland last year. He has really good vision. He runs hard. He is strong. He is dependable. He will probably do both, but I would not say that (RB) D’Ernest (Johnson) would not be out there, as well. Who knows? On punt return you have those two really god receivers back there with (WRs) Jarvis (Landry) and Odell (Beckham Jr.) that are always possibilities. Fourth quarter if we need a big play, those are your big play guys that you can go to and hopefully win a game with one of them.”


On LS Charley Hughlett:

“We call the jug machine little Charles. He is kind of like the human JUGS machine. He is very good, a true pro. All the snappers in this league, there is only one of them on the team so they are all very very hard but he is a hard worker. He is really good with these two young kids and he will be a good leader for us in that room.”


On Hughlett knowing exactly how many times the ball spirals from snap to punter:

“That is another work in progress. Britton caught the ball a little bit different that Jamie so sometimes the laces are not perfect and we are working through that right now but I think we are on the right track. We will be more consistent. Even Charley said it today, he was joking around today in the meeting that he is the one that makes the field goal. It all starts with him, and he is right. We joke around about that, but there is a lot more into kicking a field goal and making a field goal or PAT than just the kicker. It is the snap, the hold and the protection. It is all the little things, field conditions, wind, all the things we talked about before. Charley is a pro. He is a true pro, and I am glad that we have him.”


On the importance of the Browns sending the specialists to FirstEnergy Stadium twice this week and if that would have been different if not for the stadium’s known kicking conditions:

“No, I think it is important anytime you have two new guys – the new punter, the new kicker – the more familiar they are with their surroundings, the more we can make FirstEnergy Stadium a home field advantage for us. Honestly, they have only been down there for a scrimmage and two preseason games until this week. When they go down there, I want them to feel more confident every time they go down there. They have been here. I know what the flags are doing, I know what the wind is doing. I have an idea where I need to punt the ball or what hash I need to kick the game-winning field goal from, etc. The more we go down there, the more confident they become by just working down there and getting used to that stadium. As you guys know as the year goes on, it gets colder and windier, and the weather is going to turn nasty here in Cleveland like it always does. I think the more they kick outdoors and the more they kick in a stadium setting more so than the practice field, that will get them ready for pretty much any outdoor stadium.”


On if the specialists will go to the stadium on a weekly basis:



On if Gillan is good to have in the special teams room based on his personality balance with Seibert:

“I think they have actually talked about that. One is very tightly wound guy in Austin and one is a little bit loosey-goosey. I think they are very good for each other. If they are both loosey-goosey, I do not know. I think that would be a little difficult for me to be around to be honest with you because I am more tightly wound and I am closer to Austin in that regard. I think Jamie approaches his job with very good focus and he is a true pro. I think he is learning how to be a better pro by being around guys in our locker room that are good pros. They are good for each other. Jamie has been great. I think the good thing about him is that he might not get a good punt and it might be a below average punt, the next one he is going to bomb. He does not worry about what he did on the last one. He probably forgot anyway to be honest with you. Having a short memory for him and his personality helps in that regard.”


On how many different punts Gillan has now:

“You have your basic what we call a field punt. You have the backup punt from inside the five. You have a field punt that is just anywhere from the six yard line to the 45-yard line. Then you have what we call the Aussie punt or plus-50 punt. He has some different tricks in his bag or we call them clubs in the bag. I am not much of a golfer so if you hear me use a golf analogy it won’t be very good (laughter). He does have different tricks that he can use, different kicks and different wind situations kicking from the hash, keep their return teams off-balance that we talk about getting ready for a ball game. He can keep people off balance because he has that rugby background and he can pretty much do whatever he wants with the football as long as he is consistent with it.”


On how much of premium it is that Gillan is left-footed:

“It is kind of a bonus. It was not part of the decision-making process per se. Being the fact that he is left footed and we are playing 15 games outdoor this year, I think that has a lot to do with putting other returners that can be a little bit uncomfortable returning from a left-footed punter in their organization. I think it makes it difficult. It is hard to get used to a lefty off the JUGS. It is not the same. Especially his ball, that he can use so many different things with it as well.”


On what NFL stadiums are the most difficult t:

“Ours is tough. I have not been here a lot, but ours is tough. I think being in the NFC North for eight years, Chicago and Green Bay were difficult certain times of the year. Chicago is always windy. Green Bay when it was cold, windy and nasty, it made it tough. That makes me appreciate those guys  like a (Packers K) Mason Crosby all the more because he has had such a great career. One bad year and he has had a great year other than that. He has kicked in that division and in that stadium year in and year out. A lot of respect for those guys that are successful for over a longer period of time in those stadiums.”


On Heinz Field being among the most difficult to kick inside:

“Probably Pittsburgh. I have not coached there a lot, but yes, especially the open end. My son coaches there [at Pitt]. He is a graduate assistant there now, and I was at the game the other night. It was a beautiful night but that made a difference. Being in that stadium, I kind of got juiced up before the game. My son got me sideline passes. I know people there now (laughter). It was kind of cool, my wife and I were out there watching pregame and watching our son. It was pretty emotional for me. It was kind of surreal to watch him coach. Being in that stadium and understanding the winds, it is going to be tough to play there and Cincinnati and Baltimore as well. They each have their own challenges.”


On embracing Gillan tackling:

“Absolutely. You do not want them to tackle. The reason he had three tackles is because we did not cover with the flip on those three plays in the two-game period. It really ticked me off  to be honest with you. Having him as the last resort as someone that is not afraid to stick his nose in there as long as he stays healthy. He is a pretty big strong kid. That is a nice bonus to have, but you are hoping that he does not make any this year. That means we are covering punts and kicks better than we did the other night.”


On if the Browns special teams needed a massive overhaul this year:

“I do not know if overhaul is the right word. I think that we have a focus from our general manager, our personnel department and our head coach that I do not know if they have had here in years past before John and Freddie (Kitchens) became GM and head coach, respectively. I do not know that for a fact. I do not want to speak for them because I am not going to criticize the people that were here before. I do know that we do have great attention to detail with our head coach ad attention to detail with our personnel department, starting with John, about the importance of special teams and how it can help us win games. Hopefully, we can carry that baton and be great on teams and on every phase. That is the goal.”


On challenges covering the Titans returners:

“(Titans WR) Darius Jennings is outstanding. I used to lose sleep over Devin Hester and all the other great returners we faced over the years. This kid may not be Devin Hester, but he is really good. He is not a big guy, but he runs like a big guy. He has good vision. He is explosive. He is quick. He makes people miss. He averaged 31.7 yards per return last year on 22 returns with that touchdown against Miami in Week 1. He is a very dangerous returner. They are well coached. They do a great job with their scheme. We have challenges.”


On if Gillan is one of the NFL’s better tacklers as a P, given his rugby background:

“I think right now he is the most willing tackler. A lot of these guys as you get a little bit older – I have been around some veteran punters and kickers – they rather not throw their body in there because they are older, and they are not as effective as a punter or kicker or whatever afterwards. He is such a great athlete because of his rugby background, and he played some soccer in high school, too. He is good at what he does. We do not need him to tackle. We rather he did not. It is nice to have that 11th guy there if you need him.”


On if the Browns have to continue to monitor Seibert’s plant foot, given the adjustments:

“You have to continue to monitor all day. Like Monday, he went day to the stadium and we tape all that stuff. We have Chavis (Cook) one of our ops guys that goes down there. He drives the van, he sets everything up and he videotapes. These guys are amazing around here. They do so many great things for us. We watched the tape from Monday, and he was not jamming himself and he hit the ball really well. Yesterday, he still hit the ball well but he jammed himself a few times. It is something that we have to continue to monitor and correct. Like any other technique in the game of football, it isn’t just specific to here.”


On what potentially causes Seibert to jam his approach:

“Just a little bit of the last step is a little bit too long. We are talking. A little bit off, we are talking a couple of inches now. That is why his jab has to be nice and short. His second step is short, his last step is really short. Everything has to be short and compact, and to be more consistent. Aim small, miss small. That concept. The more he works on it, the more consistent he will be.”


On his son coaching at Pittsburgh: 

“The toughest thing for me is that he is very witty, Michael Jr. He calls himself 2.0; he is the upgrade from 1.0. He thinks that is really cute, but it is not (laughter). My dad went and spent a couple of days at camp at Pittsburgh, and Coach (Pat) Narduzzi was kind enough to let him go down there. He is the first generation, I am the second generation and my son is the third generation. My dad told me, ‘I thought I was good, I think you are better and your son is going to be even better than you.’ I was like, ‘Alright.’ That is a little bit of a challenge. 2.0 is the upgrade.”


On if his son coaches special teams:

“No, he was smart enough to get out of that. He did one year at the University of Minnesota as a special teams GA and now he is on the defensive side of the ball. He is a lot smarter than his old man.”


On what position his son coaches:

“Helping with the linebackers, helping with the defense and helping a little bit with special teams because of his background.”


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