Q&A: With Special Teams Coach Jay Hayes

Special teams coach Jay Hayes is working with a whole new set of specialists this year — for him and for the Vikings.

Special teams coach Jay Hayes joined the Vikings in the offseason after three years in the same role with the Pittsburgh Steelers. While there, he coached kicker Kris Brown and returners Troy Edwards and Hank Poteat.

Prior to coaching in Pittsburgh, Hayes coached linebackers and special teams at the University of Wisconsin for four years. He has also coached three seasons (1993-94) at California and four (1988-91) at Notre Dame.

As a player, he earned all-conference honors his final two seasons as a defensive end at the University of Idaho. He went on to play two seasons in the USFL with the Michigan Panthers and Memphis Showboats.

Q: What players have stood out so far on special teams?

A: Brian Russell had some really good hits in the Buffalo game, D'Wayne Bates has done some good things, Jack Brewer has done some really good things. The regular guys, Harold (Morrow) and Chris (Walsh), are always going to do something that catches your attention. Brian Williams has made a lot of plays for us. Nick Rogers every now and then has jumped in there. All the young guys are learning, and the old guys are trying to bring them along so that we can continue to get better. Doug Brien has done well other than missing the extra points. He has made five of six on field goal attempts and has kicked off really well. We just need to continue to improve and try to create some bigger plays, some turnovers, things like that.

Q: How about the return game?

A: It has been going pretty well, especially on the punt returns. I have been fairly pleased with that. We just need to be consistent, make sure we are getting better all the time. Nick Davis needs to make sure that he continues to improve and secure the football, which he has done. Just get him into a rhythm where he's confident. Go back there and make some plays for us when they are given to us.

Q: How much can Davis improve?

A: He can improve more, but he has only really played the one game (through Week 3). The Chicago game he pulled his hamstring halfway through. He didn't really get a good feel for what was going on, I thought. But in the [Carolina] game, he did OK. I would have liked for him to have caught that last punt instead of letting it hit the ground. But he's getting a feel for it. He's showing he has solid hands and will go back there and make the tough fair catch and stuff like that, things you have to do.

Every week it's a learning experience for him because it's something a little different. Something happens and you have to tell him, ‘When that happens, this is what you have to do.' But I think he's doing fine, and the more opportunities he gets the better he will do when it comes to breaking some runs and things like that. That's what we are trying to get him to be able to do, as well as cover some kicks. Go down and help us out when we need him to. That's something he probably hasn't had to do ever in his life.

Q: How much did you try to help Doug Brien with his confidence after he missed the two extra points against Buffalo and had his role changed to just handling kickoffs?

A: Doug has been a heck of a kicker in this league for a long time and [the two missed PATs] was one of those things that kind of happened. We talked about it, we looked at it, there was really no clear-cut explanation as to why he pulled the two extra points. But it happened. I would be surprised if it happened again in the near future. I think part of the thing was he didn't kick the whole season last year, so there is some rust there still. Sometimes he looks really good and other times you can tell he didn't kick last year. It's just something we have to work through and keep going with.

Q: Has Brien continued to practice kicking field goals, and can you see him doing that job again for this team at some point?

A: He gets to practice as much as he did before. Gary Anderson takes the majority of kicks in practice, but Doug still does take some kicks. He takes some long kicks and things like that. Yeah, I see him at one point going in and kicking for us. It just depends on if it's a long field goal and if we need it and Gary says, ‘Well, that's a little too far.' Then Doug is an option for us.

Q: Has there been much thought about what Anderson's range would be?

A: That varies, depending upon where we are, the wind conditions, if we are inside, outside. We have all seen [Brien] on a windy day kick 60-yard field goals. It just depends.

Q: Kyle Richardson hasn't had many punts inside the 20-yard line. Can you talk about his punting so far?

A: Kyle and I have talked about that we need to do a little better job with our pooch punts. We have just been hitting it a little too deep in that area. He needs to take about 5 to 6 yards off of them. But other than that, he has been hitting the ball pretty good. I think he is about to get into his stride right now and just take over and be the type of punter he has been in the last five or six years in this league.

Q: Richardson has had great success with pooch punts in the past. Do you go back to watch film of what he was doing right or how do you approach it?

A: That, too. But I think it has been the fact that he was playing on grass surfaces, and I think a little bit of the depth perception in the Dome is new. He has to get used to that. The guys have been going down to the stadium and kicking during the week. Kyle and Doug are new to this stadium, and I think that has a little bit with them being used to the facility and what it's like. What's it like when it's empty and what it's like when there are people in there.

Q: Do you take them to the Dome much to practice?

A: Once a week we go. Especially (the week of) home games we go.

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