Tripgate having shone a spotlight on human walls, gunners are seeing fewer of them. Yet plenty of obstacles remain. While working his way up the Jets' sideline, Osgood can count on a farrago of profanities from Ryan, with whom he has engaged in a years-long war of words. "If I get knocked anywhere near that sideline, he's over there cussing me, calling me all kinds of different names," says Osgood, who recounts with relish the time he was motoring past the New York bench when "Ryan didn't see me, and I got a good piece of him."
Osgood's virtuosity as a gunner has earned him three Pro Bowl berths. The path to Hawaii was cleared for him, and all other special teams selections, by Tasker, a ninth-round pick in 1985 who became a vital contributor on Buffalo's four straight AFC-champion teams to start the '90s. He was the first player to achieve stardom based on kick and punt coverage alone (nominally a receiver, he had 51 catches over a 12-year career), and he went to his first Pro Bowl in 1987. Tasker played in seven of those All-Star games but was never more excited than he was at his first.
That excitement lasted until he took the field to cover his first punt. "I line up and I'm looking across at Darrell Green and Ronnie Lott. I'm thinking, Great, I'll just beat the crap out of Ronnie Lott, then outrun Darrell Green."
So how'd it go?
"Actually, I got down the field and downed the kick or forced a fair catch." He can't recall. "The thing was, Darrell and Ronnie didn't play special teams. They didn't really know what they were doing."