Vikings address Priefer situation head on, and move on
The Sports Xchange
NFL Team Report - Minnesota Vikings - INSIDE SLANT
The Vikings hope that changes ASAP, which is why they focused their attention on special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who will be suspended by the team for the first two or three regular-season games because of an anti-gay comment he made in a team setting in 2012.
In hopes of addressing the situation en masse and then putting it behind them quickly, the Vikings set up press conference settings for general manager Rick Spielman, coach Mike Zimmer, Priefer and long snapper Cullen Loeffler, who was the one who confirmed the comments through an independent investigation into the allegations made by former punter Chris Kluwe.
This was the first time Priefer had addressed the media since the suspension was announced last week. Priefer was suspended for three games, but can reduce that to two games if he successfully completes sensitivity training.
"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. "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 (in a statement) on (July 18), I want to reiterate that in a very humble and sincere manner."
None of those who spoke on Thursday would go into details of what was said to investigators during a six-month investigation. Reporters were referred to the 29-page summary of the findings that was released by the Vikings last week. The Vikings also wouldn't explain the decision to hire a law firm to interpret the results of the investigation rather than release the 150-page investigation itself.
"I spoke to the appropriate individuals and I cooperated throughout this entire process and the results are in that investigation," Priefer said. "And now I think it's time to move on."
As of Friday, the Vikings were still trying to figure out how to handle Priefer's absence. They have not ruled out bringing in an interim special teams coach. Priefer's assistant, Ryan Ficken, also is a possible replacement.
Spielman expressed the team's respect for Priefer as a quality coach and person who made a mistake.
"When the report came out last Friday and I know we reviewed everything, and this is what we thought and our ownership thought was the best course of action," Spielman said.
The situation began in a January article on the website Deadspin.com, when Kluwe accused Priefer of saying in a 2012 team meeting, "We should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows." This was in reference to Kluwe's support of gay marriage rights.
Priefer said this during a meeting with kicker Blair Walsh and Loeffler. Loeffler said Thursday that he never thought it was "a serious comment."
"I always thought it was a joke," Loeffler said. "They both laughed about it."
Kluwe claims Priefer caused his release because of his support of gay marriage. The Vikings argued that Kluwe's release was based solely on performance. After Kluwe's subpar 2012 season, the team drafted punter Jeff Locke, a younger and much cheaper alternative to Kluwe. According to the law firm hired by the Vikings to interpret the investigation, evidence supported the Vikings' claim that Kluwe was released because of performance.
Priefer was emotional at times while talking about the incident. After initially denying vehemently that he made the remarks, Priefer backtracked and apologized a week ago in a team release and again on Thursday.
"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," Priefer said, choking up.
Zimmer acknowledged it was a distraction Thursday, but he doesn't expect it to be one going forward.