Mike Priefer has been and will be the coordinator of the kicking and coverage teams – except for two or three games while he serves a suspension imposed by the team for anti-gay comments directed at former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.
Head coach Mike Zimmer isn’t quite ready to announce his plan on special teams during that two- or three-game stretch to start the season, but said one is coming soon. He talked with general manager Rick Spielman about the possibilities Sunday night.
“I think it is pretty close, but we will wait for a few days until we announce it,” Zimmer said.
One plan that was contemplated – or at least that Mike Priefer suggested – involved another Priefer filling in. Mike said he suggested the idea of having his dad, Chuck Priefer, take over during his suspension. However, all involved realized the perception that would have created might not have been the best.
Still, when asked at the start of training camp why he kept Priefer on staff, Zimmer mentioned the Priefer family roots in football.
“I knew about him as a person, and I knew his father,” Zimmer said. “His father was a good coach in this league. We all make mistakes. We all try to learn from our mistakes. And I think this guy is a very high-character, quality person that I want to stand behind. Honestly, I want to stand behind him because I know what is inside of him, I know what’s in his heart. And he made a mistake.”
Mike Priefer said he talked with Zimmer about the possibilities for his replacement before training camp began.
Chuck Priefer spent 17 years in the NFL as a special teams coach between the Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions, as well as 12 years coaching defensive backs, defensive line and as a coordinator at the collegiate level.
Since there has been no other noticeable presence working with the special teams early in training camp, it seems the most likely option is having assistant special teams coach Ryan Ficken take the reins while Mike Priefer serves his unpaid suspension.
“Ryan has been integrated in from day one. You know, I am going to probably let him probably make more decisions in the preseason games,” Mike said. “I still don’t know what we are going to do; that is up to Coach Zimmer and Rick Spielman. Whatever the team decides to do, obviously I’m all in. It’s still kind of my baby, it’s my show, and I take a lot of pride in that and whoever takes over for me can hopefully just continue that for a few weeks and then when I’m back, I’m back.”
The plan for the Pro Bowl kick returner isn’t etched in stone this season. His time split between kick returns and offense depends on his health.
“To me, that is the first play of the offensive series is the kickoff return,” Mike Priefer said. “If we get a nice big return off of it, which we had a lot of last year from Cordarelle, obviously, he can come out for a play, we are in great field position and he comes out on second down. If it is a touchback, he takes a knee and he is out there on first down, so that would be the most beneficial for special teams and I think for our football team. But, obviously, that is up to Coach Zimmer.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.