Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer
It's been a good week, this past week was a good week I thought. Saturday night our guys, I thought, took a step getting better. Specialists, everybody, punt return, punt, field goal. We have a lot of work to do. I told our guys this morning, we have a lot of work to do prior to the game on Saturday night. We don't get into a whole lot of Denver. Their special teams coordinator left Indianapolis to go to Denver, he's a very good coach. He'll have them ready to play. I'm looking more for fundamentals, technique, effort, being where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there and doing it that way every rep. That's the key for us working on this week getting into Saturday night's game.
Q: Do preseason games allow you to evaluate players better?
A: Absolutely, because you get to all four phases. Saturday night we just had punt return, punt and field goal. Today we had some kickoff and punt return. Tomorrow we'll have kickoff, kickoff return and some field goal. We're going to continue on with training camp because, obviously, the ultimate goal is to get ready for that opening day in September against San Francisco. With four preseason games to work on all our stuff and to evaluate these players and figure out who the best guys are going to be at the right spots, that's going to be huge for us.
Q: Will Daniel Carlson and Kai Forbath split reps in Saturday's game?
A: Coach Zimmer and I haven't talked about it, I brought that up yesterday in a personnel meeting. He's going to think about it and then he and I are going to talk later in the week.
Q: Will Carlson, Forbath and Ryan Quigley be excited to kick in Denver?
A: Well, I was there for two years before I came here. You have to avoid the trap of going out there and trying to kill the ball. Because the altitude, like you said, is going to help you. It does make a difference, the 4.6 punt might turn into a 5.0 punt, it does make a difference. But they still have to go out and do what they're supposed to do, kick how they're supposed to kick. Not do anything different than they've been doing at pretty much sea level. It will be exciting. I've had punters and kickers go crazy because it's in Denver and other guys you have to kind of reign them in a little bit. I think [Ryan] Quigley will be fine, Kai [Forbath] will be fine, Daniel [Carlson] will have to reign him in a bit because he'll want to kick the ball into the stands on kickoffs. We just have to do what we do and do it the best we can every time.
Q: How much does special teams help to decide which wide receivers inevitably make the team?
A: So, one of the great things that happen in training camp, and it's always been like this. The very first special teams meeting, Coach Zimmer shows up towards the end of the meeting and basically says, 'Hey guys, if you don't start on offense or defense, you better play special teams. A, it's going to help you make the team. B, it's going to help you get a hat on game day, you're going to be one of the 46 active on game day.' So, having that support from him, having that support from Rick [Spielman], understanding the importance of the roster and the people you keep is not only offense and defense but it is special teams as well. It's huge for me because that's what I've been saying but I'm supposed to say that. When the leadership says it, that makes those guys work a little bit harder I think, prepare a little bit more.
Q: What do you look for in receivers playing on special teams?
A: Brandon Zylstra's 215 pounds, you're going to look for him to play in some of the linebacker type spots or safety type spots that I would ask an Anthony Harris or Jayron Kearse to fill those roles. A guy like Jeff Badet, he's a smaller, quicker athlete with great speed. So, he might be playing some of the roles that Marcus Sherels might be playing in coverage. That sort of thing. So, it depends on the athlete himself not so much the position he plays on offense or defense but the athlete himself.
Q: Do you see potential for Mike Hughes as a gunner?
A: Oh yes, very much so. I see potential for Mike Hughes doing anything he wants to in this game. He's very talented, he's very intelligent. He's very quiet and unassuming, you guys have probably all talked to him, but there's a drive in there that you can see. I've been around a lot of young people, and I think he's one of the guys that really understands what he needs to do to get better. He knows he hasn't arrived yet, even though he was a first-round draft pick. I love his attitude, I love his effort, and he's improving every day.
Q: Do you expect him to get some punt return reps on Saturday?
A: Again, that's up to Coach Zimmer, but I would hope so, yes.
Q: How is you assessment of Kai Forbath's and Daniel Carlson's camps so far?
A: They both have done a nice job in field goals, and they're both 12 of 14. Kickoffs, as you would expect, Daniel is a little bit stronger, Kai would have to use his finesse in figuring out how to place the ball, etcetera, using his veteran savvy. It's very close right now, they're both working really hard. They help each other, they're both pros. Kai has been and done this before, and Daniel has done a nice job of fitting in with the group and saying, "Just because I was drafted, doesn't mean I have a spot in this team." He's going out and working every day. It's been a really good summer in that regard so far, and I hope that continues.
Q: In the preseason, are you planning to have your kickers rotate games or rotate kicks?
A: Like I said before, Coach Zimmer and I are going to talk about it later this week and then we'll obviously execute that plan on Saturday night.
Q: What have you thought of Brandon Zylstra's abilities on special teams?
A: Like I said, I think the one thing that Brandon gives you is that he's got size. He can play those safety type positions on special teams. He runs well, he's got really good knee bend, he's a good athlete. The thing with Brandon is that he needs experience and he needs reps, he hasn't really done this before, but he wants to. He's a smart player like a lot of these guys. They've been a fun group to work with this summer. Rick has assembled a really good football team, and I'm excited to keep working with these guys.
Q: When teaching wide receivers to block on special teams, how does the technique change from what they're doing on offense?
A: I try to do as much carry over from offense and defense to special teams techniques. I try to use some of the same buzz words. Obviously, it is a little bit different in terms of the dynamics that each play they are out there for. At the end of the day, I try to use the same buzz words that their position coaches use so it doesn't confuse them then, "Now I have to worry about two different words meaning the same thing." I try to keep as much carry over as possible. If you can block on offense as a receiver, as a running back, as a tight end, you have a chance to do a pretty good job on special teams. If I do my job and put them against the right person, the right matchups for them so to speak, that gives them better opportunities to be successful.
Q: On Saturday you were talking about reining Daniel Carlson in a little bit, but do you allow yourself to be impressed when he's putting kicks from 53 yards out through the top of the uprights?
A: I was talking about reining him in in Denver. You go crazy because they're playing at high altitudes and the ball travels a lot further. I don't mean reining here or anytime you are trying to kick a long field goal. What I mean by that is I don't want him to over kick and his technique goes crazy because he is trying to over kick and trying to utilize the high altitude. All you have to do is do what you do normally and the altitude works for you. Same with the wind, same thing with the wind. That is what we tell them all the time.