Mike Priefer is in his 16th NFL season coaching special teams, but Sunday will be a first.
“Yeah, it’s kind of weird,” Priefer said. “I don’t know how often it happens. I think it’s the first time it’s happened to me in that regard.”
For the first time, the Vikings special teams coordinator is studying game film of both a kicker, Matt Prater, and a punter, Jeff Locke, he’s previously coached.
Locke, a fifth-round pick by the Vikings in 2013, spent four seasons as the punter in Minnesota. But his best year came as a rookie with a career-best 39.2-yard net average.
The Vikings wanted to keep Locke, however he chose the bigger free-agent contract with the Colts. His new start didn’t last long as Locke was cut by Indy in August, after losing a preseason competition to rookie Rigoberto Sanchez.
The Lions signed Locke after their starter was injured in the season opener. Locke has since averaged 40.1 net yards on 10 punts for Detroit. Priefer expects some Vikings to gain an advantage having practiced against Locke for a few seasons.
“I think it helps our guys because they know Jeff,” Priefer said. “They’re asking him to do a couple different things than we were asking him to do here. His second and third years here we kicked outdoors, so we asked him to punt a little bit different. Jeff, it was a good four years. He did a lot of good things for us. He’s a fine young man. I enjoyed working with him.”
Priefer also coached the Lions kicker, Prater, who has made three game-winning field goals (2011, 2014, 2016) against the Vikings in his career. Prater drilled a 40-yard field goal in the closing seconds to end the Vikings’ 16-13 loss last Thanksgiving.
Priefer and Prater were both with the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010.
“Always knew he had a phenomenal leg,” Priefer said. “Unfortunately he’s made some big ones against us that I hope he doesn’t make this weekend. Being that I’ve worked with him for a couple years, I’m proud of him in a way. I hope he has a bad weekend this weekend and I’ll tell him that before the game.”