Priefer influential in final roster decisions


MANKATO, Minn. -- Later this month, as the Minnesota Vikings are sorting through candidates for the final spots on their roster, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will get to make his pitch.

He'll be a key player in those conversations with general manager Rick Spielman, head coach Mike Zimmer, offensive coordinator Norv Turner and defensive coordinator George Edwards, since the last players on the roster will inevitably be asked to play special teams. If there's a tie to be broken, Priefer's input could tip it in one direction or another. He'll sometimes argue for keeping a player largely because of what he can do on a kick or punt unit, but Priefer knows he can only ask for so many spots.

"You've got to pick and choose your battles, too," Priefer said. "If I jump on the table for 15 guys, well, who's going to listen to me? But if there's three or four guys that I truly believe need to make our team to help on special teams, those are the guys I'll vouch for."

In the meantime, Priefer is working out a large group of players on special teams, checking to see where each one stands in Turner's or Edwards' minds and preparing different options in case a player he wants to keep isn't a contender to make the roster otherwise.

"I talk to the offensive coordinator, the defensive coordinator, the head coach and our personnel people all the time, especially early in camp," Priefer said. "If it's a position of need -- maybe it's linebacker, per se. Maybe I have a little bit of influence there, safety, corner, wide receiver. But in the end, it's going to be decided by Rick Spielman, Coach Zimmer. I think they do a great job of taking the information from everybody and making the best decision as they see fit."

Priefer has been working out players like Marcus Sherels, Kain Colter, Jarius Wright, Jerick McKinnon and Adam Thielen as backup return men, as the Vikings consider taking some kick return duties off Cordarrelle Patterson's plate. Priefer is also interested, he said, in putting more skill players at the back of his kickoff units when Patterson is on the field, in light of how many times teams tried to kick short and avoid the All-Pro return man last season.

And in the event long snapper Cullen Loeffler ever gets hurt, Priefer would need a new backup long snapper. That job belonged to Jared Allen, but with the defensive end now in Chicago, linebacker Audie Cole is a front-runner for the job. Linebacker Michael Mauti or defensive end Tyler Scott could also fill in as an emergency long snapper, Priefer said.