Vikings continue to support Mike Priefer, who says he's 'failed'
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MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings opened training camp in a similar fashion as an investigation that took place at Winter Park this offseason.
The Vikings trotted out general manager Rick Spielman, special teams coordinator Mike Priefer and long snapper Cullen Loeffler to the podium in front of Sears dormitory at the University of Minnesota-Mankato on Thursday with a focus on retribution and moving on.
Priefer spoke publicly for the first time since the team released a 29-page summary, which confirmed he made a homophobic remark in a team setting. The Vikings responded by suspending him for three games, which can be trimmed to two by the team's discretion.
"That suspension will start Monday before the St. Louis game and will end Monday after the New Orleans game," Spielman said. "He will be asked to take sensitivity training classes. We will set up an outside firm for that sensitivity training. This firm does nothing but sensitivity training. Once that is complete, our ownership will review everything and then determine whether that three-game suspension will come down to a two-game suspension."
Spielman fielded 18 questions about the Priefer situation, which started when former punter Chris Kluwe penned a Deadspin article in January alleging bigotry by Priefer and a cover up by certain members of the team.
The Vikings did not release the 150-page report and Spielman responded to seven of the 18 questions with a form of "I'm not going to get into anything."
Spielman wouldn't answer whether or not Les Pico, the Vikings' director of player development, would face any punishment after the summarized analysis revealed Pico's knowledge of Priefer's comment -- the one that Loeffler confirmed and Priefer lied about twice in the report.
"I'm not going to comment on Les Pico," Spielman said. "You guys all read the Littler report. I think everybody knows Les and what he does, but do to some pending litigation I can't go down that road."
On Wednesday, through his attorney Kluwe announced he would hold off his lawsuit against the team and the two sides would continue discussions. However, as that lawsuit hangs over the Vikings' helmets, Spielman exercised caution in answering questions about the release of the full report, which Kluwe has championed for since last week.
First year head coach Mike Zimmer inherited this mess, but made strong comments defending Priefer as the 58-year-old prepares for his first camp as a head coach.
"Honestly, I want to stand behind him because I know what is inside of him," Zimmer said. "I know what's in his heart. And he made a mistake, and if anyone here hasn't made a mistake, I want you to raise your hand, because I know I've made plenty. And I think this guy is a very high-character, quality person that I want to stand behind."
Zimmer said he would address the situation with his players as they prepare for the first practice on Friday. Second-year punter Jeff Locke said the special teams unit hadn't discussed life without Priefer yet.
Priefer isn't worried about losing support in the locker room.
"They've been giving me great support," Priefer said. "They realize I've made a mistake. They know this does not define who Mike Priefer is as a man or as a football coach, and I think that they're ready to move on."
He apologized for his comment in a statement on the Vikings website after the 29-page analysis was released. He reiterated that apology on Thursday.
"With my comment, I've failed," Priefer said. "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 put out on Friday, I wanted to reiterate that in a very humble and sincere manner. I still stand by that. And now I'd like to move on. I'd like to move on to the 2014 Minnesota Vikings and what this season has to offer for us."