EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The temperature in Green Bay, Wis., could be in the 20s at kickoff on Sunday. The November winds could be swirling inside the stadium and playing with the minds of his special teams units. But Minnesota Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will always relish a trip to Lambeau Field.
It was where Priefer's father, Chuck, got his first job in the NFL, as a special teams coach, working for two seasons on Forrest Gregg's coaching staff in 1984 and 1985. Mike Priefer was a senior in high school when his family moved there from North Carolina, where Chuck Priefer had been the Tar Heels' defensive backs and defensive line coach, and while his father coached the Green Bay Packers' special teams on game days, Mike worked as a ball boy at Lambeau Field.
"I love it," Mike Priefer said. "It's a great stadium. They have great fans. It's a lot like our fans -- they're very passionate about their team."
The two Packers teams Chuck Preifer coached both went 8-8, but did so in very different ways. Green Bay's 1984 team won its season opener by a point over the St. Louis Cardinals, lost its next seven games and finished by winning seven of its final eight games, beating the Vikings 38-14 on the road in the season finale.
"It was a nice way to finish the season," Mike Priefer said of the 1984 team's run.
Now, he'll head back to the stadium looking to reprise part of the Oct. 27 matchup between the two teams, which featured plenty of special teams fireworks. The game started with Cordarrelle Patterson's NFL-record 109-yard kickoff return -- "What happened on our side? We didn't kick it far enough," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week -- while Green Bay came back later with Micah Hyde's 93-yard punt return touchdown. The Packers also tackled Patterson twice in that game inside the 20 -- "which I'm still mad about," Priefer said.
Those were just two of the seven times this season the Vikings have failed to return a kick past the 20, Priefer said, despite the number of times they've given Patterson the green light from deep in his own end zone.
"We've been saying all year, we're going to be aggressive," Priefer said. "When you have a returner back there who's as talented as Cordarrelle is -- the guys believe in him, and he believes in his blockers -- we're going to take those opportunities when they arise. As long as we can keep getting positive yards and getting it past the 20 (yard line) in net ball possession, then we're going to keep being aggressive."
Patterson could get some opportunities on Sunday, if the Packers decide to kick to him and cold temperatures keep either Mason Crosby or Tim Masthay from booming the ball out of the end zone. The weather could toy with the Vikings' kickoffs and punts, too, but even in bad weather, Lambeau Field holds a special place in Mike Priefer's heart.
"It's a great division rival, and I'm excited about the opportunity to go up there and play," he said.