Earlier today, we brought you one of the topics that Minnesota Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer spoke about at his press conference today when we talked about how the team was planning on handling kick returns. Obviously, he had significantly more to talk about than that, and now we’ve got the full transcript of everything that he discussed at his press conference following today’s early session of practice. Enjoy, everyone!
Afternoon everybody, welcome back. Obviously, exciting time of the year. Working with a bunch of young guys and trying to see what we are going to have emerge and play for us on Sundays and on special teams this year. Got a lot of good options. Lot of good football players. We got a great locker room, great attitude. The great thing about our team is our veterans, a lot of them have played special teams, the guys who start now on offense and defense. They were really good special teamers at one point, now they are starting but they are in the locker room kind of helping me and helping me do my job because they are great leaders. They help the young guys understand how important special teams is. Complimentary football, all of the things we talk about, that I talk about a lot, but that is my job. I am supposed to talk like that, but the veteran guys really help us and it has been great so far.
Q: How are you going to approach the kickers this training camp?
A: I think just like we did in the spring time, I think what we got to do is put these guys in pressure situations in team. And then on the side when we do all of the charting, because quite honestly they have to be, one has to be more consistent than the other. One’s got to do what we ask him to do on kickoffs better than the other. It was very good competition in the spring. Both guys showed up and did a great job. I think Daniel [Carlson] is as advertised. He is very strong. He is a very good kickoff guy. He’s got some work to do with being a little bit more consistent with his field goals. I thought Kai [Forbath] had a tremendous spring. They were neck and neck all spring and we will see what happens.
Q: How far would you realistically keep this thing going?
A: Well, that is not my decision. It depends on the roster, if we need another roster spot; you know how that goes this time of year. But, if they are both kicking well, like I expect them too, hopefully this competition will go on at least first couple game, maybe longer.
Q: How do you assimilate what is like to make a kick in a playoff game?
A: Well, anytime we do a team, we have 6 or 8 kicks in team, we are going to do that tomorrow afternoon. Those are pressure situations. They are competing against each other quite honestly. I tell them every kick say, ‘game kick.’ No matter if we are over here working with the snapper and holder only and then we are just charting them. It is on video and we are charting everything. You know me, I am going to chart everything. I have been dealing with punters in completion, kickers in competition, and even the snappers when we had competition here. We charted and videotaped everything. So we knew we were going to make the best decision for our football team. Also, we will have other hurry up field goal situations with the team. The head coach will have game situations at the end of practice that might include a field goal opportunity for one of the guys, and then we will trade off on those, whether it is a kickoff or a field goal in any of those game situations that we do in practice.
Q: How do the players balance working with each other and helping each other versus the competition aspect?
A: Well that’s the great thing, both Kai and Daniel have come into this situation and are both professional. They like each other and I would think they would be friends off the field. They’re both good people. They understand it’s a business. They understand we’re only going to keep one kicker. I don’t know if Kai is going to impart all his wisdom with Daniel. I think at the end of the day they are both being very professional. I am proud of both of them, the way they’ve worked up until this point, I would expect them to continue to do that as well.
Q: How is Antwione Williams looking? Does his play line up with your expectations?
A: That’s a good question. We have a lot of good linebackers. We have a lot of good players, a lot of different positions. There is going to be great competition throughout training camp. What Antwione brings to the table, he’s got a little bit of experience from his days in Detroit. He was with us last year as a practice squad player and I believe he was on the roster at some point. He’s big and he’s strong and he can run. Some of the technique things that he brought with him we’re trying to break him of some bad habits that he brought with him since we do things a little differently here. Other than that, he’s got a great attitude, he’s smart and he’s a good football player.
Q: How much will special teams be important with the battle for reserves spots?
A: If you ask Coach Zimmer that question I know he will say they are very, very important. He was in the team meeting, the first special teams meeting we had we included the whole team so all 90 guys were in there. Coach Zimmer stood up in front of that meeting at the end and said “Hey, if you’re a backup on offense and defense and you don’t play special teams: a) you may not make the team and b) you certainly won’t dress on game day”, so I think it’s a big deal and it has been since I’ve been here, so I’m very fortunate to have a coach and a general manager that supports that.
Q: How is Mike Hughes coming along in the return game?
A: He’s come a long way as a punt returner. Kickoffs are a bit easier to catch like we’ve always talked about. I think he’s done a really nice job. He’s taking it to heart. He’ll come in a watch some video on his own. We get a lot of video tape like we said. We have a lot of close up video. There’s some little things, that again he brought with him from college that he’s already broken those bad habits and he’s only going to continue to get better.
Q: Did you go into camp expecting him to be your kick returner?
A: I think so. I think his talent and productivity in college you’ll probably say, “Hey, he’ll probably be the kick returner and Marcus [Sherels] will be the punt returner as it stands today.” And let them both compete at both spots to be quite honest and we’ve got some other young guys that will compete as well that are going to take some return opportunities in the preseason games.
Q: How has Marcus Sherels handled the fact that Mike Hughes might handle both kick and punt return?
A: The thing about Marcus is he’s been a pro since I met him eight years ago or whenever, seven and a half years. He’s done everything I’ve ever asked him to do. He’s quiet. He’s humble. He just comes to work every day. He’s healthy now. I think he was still a little banged up last year from the 2016 season. I’m excited about him because of what he brings to the table. He brings experience. He brings productivity. He brings a great attitude. Everything he does, every drill he does, everything he does is almost perfect in terms of what we ask him to do. So he knows that every day is competition and he knows Mike [Hughes] is going to bring a lot of competition to the table. I think quite honestly it will make him better. If he wins the job that’s because he beat out a very, very good football player and he understands that.
Q: How much weight do you put on everything else Marcus Sherels does?
A: I put a lot of weight on it. He’s been a gunner for us since 2011. He’s been on kickoff team since 2011, he’s been our punt returner since 2011. He’s had a lot of reps and kickoff return he’s been a part-time guy there, so you guys know how I feel about Marcus and lot of you guys probably feel the same way. He’s a good man. He’s a hard worker. He’s been very productive for us and I see no reason why he’s not going to go out and do the best he can and give us great competition and see what happens.
Q: Would you rather have different guys at each spot just in case one gets hurt and you would have to replace both positions?
A: I think in a perfect world you want to put the best guys out there no matter what spot it is. If it’s Mike at kickoff returner and Marcus at punt returner or vice versa than that’s great. If it’s only one guys and he gets hurt than we’ll have to find somebody else. We’ve done that before and we’ll just keep doing that. But in a perfect world I want the best guy no matter what spot it is. At any spot on special teams for that matter.
Q: Is anything etched in stone with special team changes?
A: I think it’s because the dynamics of the plays changed it’s a work in progress. We worked on it today with the kickoff returners in the half-field, so the alignments weren’t perfect, but we worked on it a lot this summer. When the Jaguars come to town I’m going to swap ideas with their coach because he’s been around the league a long time and he’ll have some great ideas. I’ll kind of study and see what other teams are doing during the preseason and see if it fits what we do and we just keep doing what we’re doing. I think we have a good plan, but like any plan at this stage with a new rule you’re going to need to be ready to adapt if you need to.
We’ve got one more transcript from Sunday to bring you, so keep your eyes open for that.