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Notes from Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer

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He talks about his excitement of being from the area, K Greg Joseph needing to work on his technique, and more.

On Thursday, all three of the Cleveland Browns’ new coordinators held their first press conferences since joining the team. Here is a reader’s digest of what special teams coordinator Mike Priefer had to say:

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  • Priefer opened by saying “I am the new special teams coordinator of the Cleveland Browns.” He said it was really cool to say that, because he grew up a big Browns, Indians, and Cavaliers fan and sees the huge opportunity this team has to win.

“I still have family around here – aunts, uncles and cousins. It is funny you mention that because every time we would play the Browns when I was with different teams, they would say, ‘Hey, Uncle Mike. Good luck. I hope the Browns win.’ They were still cheering for their Browns – I know any other family members; my immediate family, they always cheer for whatever team I am coaching for. I spent my first about 10 years of my life here, five in Middleburg Heights and five in Brunswick. My dad was the head football coach at Padua Franciscan High School so I kind of grew up around Padua and St. Anthony. In fact, he lived on 6850 State Road right up on the hill there across the street from St. Anthony. I actually went to church there a couple of weekends ago, and that was the first time I had been back since my grandmother’s funeral 26-27 years ago. I have come back to this area when we have played the Browns or I have come up here for an Indians game in the summer or something like that. I do have family still around.”

He Likes K Greg Joseph, But Needs Some Technique Work

  • You can pretty much guarantee the Browns will bring in competition at kicker this offseason. When a coach says the current kicker “needs some technique work,” that is often the kiss of death, even though he wasn’t saying it to be harsh at all:

“First of all, special teams is six phases. I understand where you are coming from, I understand that completely, and I have been there before. It is glaring when a guy misses a kick. I have lived it. We could be great on special teams and miss a field goal at the end of the game, and you lost the game on special teams. I do not believe that. Going back to your question about Greg, I really like Greg coming out of college last year, a strong-legged kid. He needs some technique work. I still think he needs some technique work, but there is something there. He has a really big leg, and I think the to kick in Cleveland, to go to Baltimore, to go to Pittsburgh or go to Cincinnati, all of these outdoor venues that I have not been used to these past eight years, you are going to need a strong-legged young man. I like Greg. I like what he brings to the table. I think he has a chance to be a really good kicker. Will we bring in competition for him? I am not sure yet. We have not had those discussions. At the end of the day, I think he has a chance to be pretty good, and I did like him coming out.”

Minimizing Penalties and Motivating Players

  • Priefer talked about the importance of players treating special teams seriously when they are fighting for a paycheck, and then also the fine-line of trying to reduce penalties.

On the Browns special teams units not performing well in recent years:

“I am not sure how bad they were last year. I know that they had their moments that they were pretty good and in other moments they were not as good. When I first got to Minnesota, they were OK, and we were pretty good right off the bat. I think what it boils down to is you need to have good players. You need to have players that love the game of football. I am going to tell these young guys when they get into the building here in April that you can’t be a good special teams player unless you are passionate about the game of football. If you are just out there for a paycheck, you are out there just to get by or you are out there, ‘Hey, I only want to play linebacker or running back,’ then first of all, you are not going to help our team win and you are certainly not going to help us on special teams. If you have a passion about football and if you love the game, then I think you have a chance if you are good enough. I tell guys, ‘Use the fundamentals and techniques that we give you and then let God take over. Let the God-given talent that you have been given to help you play at high level.’ How quickly can we turn around our special teams? I think that is going to depend on our players and depend on how much they buy into what we are doing here. The culture that we had in Minnesota was outstanding. I am leaving a really good group of guys, and I have heard from a bunch of them and other people in the organization. It was tough to leave, but I am going to reiterate how excited I am to be here and to have this opportunity to help our football team win and win a lot of games.”

On minimizing penalties on special teams:

“There is a fine line there. You can over-coach it where guys are passive and they are not playing as fast and as hard as they can, but what we have had the last two years in Minnesota is we were the least penalized special teams unit in the league two years in a row. That is the mentality that I would like to bring here. I think that we are going to get that. We just hired an assistant, Doug Colman, who is going to work with me on special teams. He came from Dallas. He had been in Houston, and he has the same mentality that I do. We are going to play penalty-free football. We are going to play fast. We are going to play physical. We are going to play disciplined. We are going to play with enthusiasm and passion. We are going to help our football team win games. I do not want to go into a situation where I think, ‘Hey, we are going to go out and win every game for the Cleveland Browns.’ That is not our role on special teams. Our role is to go out there and be a weapon in all six phases, including field goal and field goal block. Be a weapon, play great complementary football and at the end of the day, let’s hope we win the game. That is where our mentality is going to be as we train these young men.”

Rest of the Presser

To hear the entire press conference, check out the video below: