As Vikings players reported to training camp at Minnesota State Mankato this afternoon, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer made his first public comments since it was announced last Friday that the team was suspending him for two to three games following the investigation into former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe’s claims that Priefer made anti-gay comments in a team setting.
Priefer, who is required to participate in sensitivity training, opened with a lengthy statement.
“I’d like to start off by saying that I like to set a higher standard for myself -- a higher standard of conduct, a higher standard of work ethic, a higher standard of being a father and a husband and I expect a lot from my players as well,” Priefer said. “My wife and I raise our children this way in terms of our last name and what that means. Remember who you are. In this regard, in this situation, with my comment, I failed. I didn’t just go below the bar. I went way below the bar. I made a mistake. I was wrong. I brought a lot of undue attention to the Minnesota Vikings organization and brought an unwanted distraction, and I apologize. The apology that I spoke about, that I put out on Friday, I want to reiterate that in a very humble and sincere manner.”
Priefer was then asked what he regretted most about the situation involving himself and Kluwe.
“The biggest thing I regret is I brought a lot of bad publicity to the Minnesota Vikings and I felt like I let my family down,” the emotional coach said, choking up as he finished that sentence.
Priefer wouldn’t go into specifics about what he said to Kluwe or what he said to independent investigators during their six-month investigation, referring reporters to the 29-page summary that was released by the Vikings last Friday in chorus with the announcement of his suspension.
“I spoke to the appropriate individuals and I cooperated throughout this entire process and the results are in that investigation, and now I think it’s time to move on,” Priefer said.
Later asked if he wanted the full report to be made public, he responded, “I haven’t seen the whole report, so I wouldn’t know.”
General manager Rick Spielman was also made available to media today, and he also declined to answer questions about the specifics of the investigation.
Asked if the team considered firing Priefer when determining his punishment, Spielman replied, “When the report came out last Friday I know we reviewed everything, and this is what we thought and our ownership thought was the best course of action.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer said he is standing behind Priefer, who he decided to keep on his staff after he replaced Leslie Frazier in January and after Kluwe’s made his claims on Deadspin.com.
“We all make mistakes,” he said. “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, and if anyone here hasn’t made a mistake, I want you to raise your hand, because I know I’ve made plenty.”
Priefer said it “hurts” that he won’t be with his players for at least the first two weeks of the season (he won't be allowed inside the team facility). He expects to spend the first week of the regular season in sensitivity training, though he doesn’t know yet what exactly that entails. If he participates in that training, the Vikings say they will consider reducing his suspension from three games to two games. He respects their decision to suspend him and said “It’s one that I will fulfill.”
“I’m not going to change the way I coach and I’m not going to change the way I teach,” Priefer said. “But I’ve learned a lesson. I have learned a lesson here. That’s a great thing about this situation, I’m going to look back and say something good had to come from this. But I learned a hard lesson, I’ve got to be sensitive to other people in what I say and that’s not going to happen again.”