MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Suspended special teams coach Mike Priefer is rejoining the Minnesota Vikings staff as soon as possible.
The Vikings reinstated Priefer after he missed the first two games of the season for making anti-gay remarks. Priefer was initially suspended three games after an independent investigation into the claims made by former punter Chris Kluwe found that the coach made several offensive remarks at practices and in meetings while working for the team.
But the Vikings left open the possibility that Priefer could have the suspension reduced to two games if he completed a program of individualized anti-harassment, diversity and sexual-orientation sensitivity training.
"The decision by Vikings ownership follows extensive conversations with the independent professional consultants retained to conduct individualized anti-harassment, diversity and sexual orientation training with Coach Priefer," the Vikings announced Sunday night, a few hours after a 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots. "Those consultants have conveyed to the team that Coach Priefer was fully and thoughtfully engaged throughout the process and successfully completed the program."
Kluwe used Priefer's comments to illustrate an accusation of an intolerant workplace while the punter was employed by the team. He also accused the team of cutting him for his outspoken support of gay rights, but the investigation found no evidence to corroborate those allegations.
The Vikings agreed to donate $100,000 to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups after the investigation was concluded and later reached an additional settlement to avoid a lawsuit from Kluwe. Under that deal, the Vikings will donate an undisclosed sum of money to five gay rights-related charities over the next five years. Kluwe said he won't receive any money as part of the settlement.
While Priefer was serving his suspension, the Vikings brought in veteran special teams coach Joe Marciano to fill in. After a convincing victory over the St. Louis Rams to open the season, special teams blunders were one of the culprits in the ugly loss to the Patriots on Sunday.
The Vikings had a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown just before halftime by Patriots defensive lineman Chandler Jones and Minnesota also gave up a long punt return to Julian Edelman in the loss.
Immediately after the game, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked if the Vikings planned to cut Priefer's suspension short, but the coach said to his knowledge it was a three-game suspension.
About four hours later, the announcement was made. Priefer will rejoin the coaching staff immediately and begin preparations for the next game at New Orleans.
The news comes at the end of a trying week for the Vikings, who deactivated star running back Adrian Peterson for the game Sunday after he was charged with child abuse for using a tree branch to discipline his 4-year-old son.
Zimmer declined to get into specifics on Peterson's situation Sunday and declined to say if Peterson would return for the game against the Saints next weekend.