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Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer turns down Vikings’ offer to join Browns

Minnesota Vikings interim head coach Mike Priefer looks on during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium in DCecember 2016. Prifer has left the Vikings to join the coaching staff of the Cleveland Browns. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

EAGAN, Minn. -- Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer told NFL Media on Friday, Jan. 11, he has left the Vikings for the Cleveland Browns.

Priefer, whose contract expired Tuesday, said in a statement to the outlet that the Vikings offered him a contract but he elected to move on after eight seasons to join the staff of new Browns coach Freddie Kitchens.

“I had an unforgettable eight seasons working for the Minnesota Vikings,” Priefer said in the statement. “We were an extremely successful team all around and I loved being a part of the franchise’s growth. My contract with the Vikings expired after this season and when the Vikings asked to re-sign me, I decided to humbly decline and have taken a new job with the Cleveland Browns.”

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer did not return a message seeking comment.

Sirius XM NFL Radio reported last week that the Vikings were working to retain Priefer, although they were looking at other options in case a deal could not be reached. Priefer, a native of Cleveland, told NFL Media he also had interviews with Atlanta and Detroit.

Priefer, 52, joined the Vikings in 2011 under then-coach Leslie Frazier. He was retained when Zimmer took over in 2014.

Priefer was suspended for the first two games of the 2014 season for making a homophobic remark, which was reported by former punter Chris Kluwe. Priefer had to undergo sensitivity training for that incident.

Priefer’s tenure included kicker Blair Walsh making the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2012 but then missing a 27-yard field goal in the waning seconds of a 2015 playoff loss to Seattle. Walsh was released midway through the next season, and Minnesota’s kicking game has continued to be up and down.

In 2018, rookie kicker Daniel Carlson was cut after missing three field goals in Week 2, including a 35-yard attempt on the final play of overtime, in a 29-29 tie at Green Bay. Carlson’s replacement, Dan Bailey, had some issues, including making just 4 of 9 attempts between 40 and 49 yards.

Priefer was hired by the Browns two days after they named Kitchens their head coach on Wednesday.

“I am excited to work with Coach Kitchens, (general manager) John Dorsey and the entire Browns organization,” Priefer said in his statement. “I will always remember my time spent with the Vikings and deeply appreciate everyone that I was able to work with during my time there. I want to thank the Wilf family (ownership), Coach Zimmer and (general manager) Rick Spielman for everything.”