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Monday, August 4, 2014
Vikings: Priefer's replacement coming soon

By Ben Goessling

MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings will wait until after Friday's preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders to make -- or at least announce -- a decision on how they will replace special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, whom the team suspended for the first three games of the season after he made a homophobic remark during the 2012 season.

"The plan the whole time has been to probably wait until after this game," coach Mike Zimmer said.

That would suggest assistant special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken might be in line to take over for Priefer, whose suspension can be reduced to two games if he completes sensitivity training. Priefer said on Monday morning that he has already been working on plans for the two games he will miss (against St. Louis and New England), and will soon begin work on a plan for the Vikings' third game against the New Orleans Saints.

Ficken typically stands next to Priefer during games, and Priefer -- who said he doesn't know how the Vikings will handle his suspension -- thought the Vikings' decision to wait could indicate an audition for Ficken.

"It could be, and I think Ryan could handle the game," Priefer said. "He and I make decisions a lot, and probably what I'll do more of during the preseason is go ahead and say, 'OK, what are you thinking here, Ryan?' (If) there's plenty of time in advance, we're in a TV timeout or something's going on so it's not a rush situation and he has a couple seconds to think about it, (I'll say), 'Hey, what would you do in this situation?'

"He's pretty on top of it. He's a smart guy. He works hard. As you know, special teams is a lot of situational football, and that's the biggest challenge for any special teams coordinator, especially in the preseason with so many bodies going in and out."

Priefer can still coach through the preseason, and he said he wants to see wide receivers Adam Thielen and Kain Colter, as well as running back Jerick McKinnon, returning kicks before the start of the season. The Vikings are trying to determine a backup kick returner for wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who figures to take on a bigger role in the offense this season, and Priefer said Patterson would likely return only one or two kicks in the preseason.