Vikings coach is on a mission to save special teams

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Thoughts of scheme and strategy creeping their way into his subconscious are common for Priefer, the former naval helicopter pilot whose strict attention to detail has Minnesota atop the NFL with the most special-teams touchdowns (14) since his arrival in 2011.

The questions he pondered spanned the spectrum: Will these safety measures lead to longer returns and fewer onside kicks? If you have a good return team, is your opponent more apt to try to kick touchbacks? If your kicker can put the ball high and short to the goal line with a 4.3-second hang time, how much easier is that to cover? If the returner you’re facing is someone like Tyreek Hill, are you better served to try to kick it out of the end zone?cheap nike jerseys nfl

In March, NFL data showed that concussions were five times more likely to occur on kickoffs than on other plays in 2017. Two months later, Priefer was one of nine special-teams coaches to present a series of proposed changes to the rules on kickoffs and kickoff returns aimed at eliminating high-speed collisions.6

As one of the league’s longest-tenured and most well-respected special-teams coordinators, Priefer is on a mission to save all facets of special teams, starting with finding ways to preserve a part of the game the league has long tried to get rid of: kickoffs.

“How boring would it be to spot the ball on the 25?” Priefer told ESPN. “We had to find a way to keep this play alive and find ways to make it safer.”

To the average fan, the new rules affecting kickoffs won’t look that much different. To the 17-year NFL special-teams coach, the league will “absolutely” see injuries go down as one of the most dangerous plays in football becomes safer.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

The NFL decided to fast-track these rules changes to put them in effect for the 2018 season, and that makes things tricky for all sides, from those teaching and executing plays to the referees tasked with enforcing the rules.

Preseason football has never been as important to special-teams coaches as it is now, with a chance to make adjustments to coverage and return schemes and see how kickoffs will be officiated. With something finally on tape after Minnesota’s 42-28 victory Saturday in Denver, Priefer can begin to dissect where things went right, where they went wrong and learn just how different the kickoff will become with these new rules in effect.

Less than 24 hours after the Vikings kicked off their preseason opener, Priefer sits, clicker in hand, in Minnesota’s special-teams meeting room, pouring through all 13 kickoffs exchanged between the two teams.