Photo: NW Herald
Photo: NW Herald — H. Rick Bamman

Yes, kickers and punters need love — and much-deserved spots on my "Team for the Ages" roster. And we've got a spot allocated for a returner and a coverage player as well, so let's shine the light on the legends of the oft-overlooked third phase.

PK Adam Vinatieri

Many will argue Bill Belichick spurning the Jets for the Patriots signaled the beginning of the NFL's greatest dynasty. Still, others will maintain it was a few months later in 1998, when some guy by the name of Tom Brady was unearthed in Round Six.

Technically, though, it was a little less than two years after that, when Vinatieri connected on a 48-yard field goal at the buzzer to secure New England's first Super Bowl victory. Two years later Vinatieri's 41-yarder with ony four ticks left sunk the Panthers. Sixteen years later, like the Energizer bunny, the NFL's oldest active player — and its most clutch kicker ever — is still going.

P Ray Guy

Guy is a Hall of Famer. He also authored said Hall of Fame career under the daunting expectations of being not only a first-round punter, but the first-ever first-round punter. He had just three of his 1,049 career booms blocked. He averaged 42.4 yards and appeared in seven conference title games. Also the Raiders' kickoff specialist and emergency quarterback, Guy is in a league all his own among punters.

RS Devin Hester

Apologies, Mel Gray, "White Shoes" Johnson and a few others, but the thought of anyone other than Hester in this spot is, well, ridiculous. His 20 return touchdowns are an NFL record. His presence dissuaded the smart teams from kicking to him and doomed the stubborn clubs. Arguably no individual player created as much excitment on any given play than the few seconds after Hester fielded a punt or kickoff for the better part of a decade with the Bears. Pure electricity.

ST Steve Tasker

He doesn't have the most coverage tackles. He isn't credited with the most return-touchdown-springing blocks. But Tasker is pretty much universally recognized as the greatest special-teamer ever. At only 5-9 and 185 pounds, the ex-Bill and Northwestern product was among the toughest pound-for-pound players in the league over a 13-year tenure that saw him earn seven Pro Bowl invitations and five first-team All-Pro nods.