Tasker's career ends with ejection

Sunday, December 21, 1997
By Robert Imrie Associated Press Writer

    GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Buffalo special teams star Steve Tasker was ejected Saturday from the final game of his 13-year NFL career for protesting a muffed Bills punt and bumping an official.
    Tasker rushed at the officials early in the first quarter after they signaled the Green Bay Packers had recovered a fumbled punt in the end zone for a touchdown.
    "It's not really the way I wanted my career to end, obviously," Tasker said after being ejected for the first time in his career.
    "I was very sad that I had to leave the game. But on the other hand, I was kind of laughing, because it's your farewell game and 'Hey Steve, let me be the first to say goodbye,"' he said.
    Tasker, who has played in four Super Bowls and seven Pro Bowls and is considered one of the best special teams players in NFL history, announced his retirement a week ago, effective with Saturday's season finale against Green Bay. The Packers won 31-21.
    The play that got Tasker ejected occurred when he decided not to catch a punt deep in his own territory with less than two minutes gone.
    The ball bounced inside the 5-yard line and television replays showed it grazed the back of the Bills' Raymond Jackson as he skidded on the ground on his knees trying to get out of the way.
    The ball then bounced into the hands of Tyrone Davis for a touchdown.
    Referee Mike Carey immediately signaled the score, and Tasker protested. He later rushed into a crowd of players and officials and yellow flags went flying.
    Tasker was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.
    Carey said Tasker was "complaining about a foul and bumped" back judge Tom Sifferman, a rule violation that mandates an ejection.
    Carey said he knew it was Tasker's final game. "That's not a license. It's unfortunate, but it's not a license," the referee said at halftime.
    After being ejected, Tasker was escorted partially down the sidelines by some officials before he sprinted toward the locker room to the cheers of Packers fans.
    Buffalo coach Marv Levy said Tasker just brushed by one official in trying to get to talk to another one.
    "Here's a guy that's done everything by the rules in his entire career," Levy said. "I'm biting my tongue to not talk now about what I feel is an injustice."
    Tasker, 35, was among Buffalo's most popular players because of his easy-going personality. He made a career out of covering punts, blocking them and returning them.
    Tasker was one of five players remaining from the Bills' four Super Bowl teams.
    Tasker said he didn't know he had been ejected until a teammate told him.
    Tasker doublechecked with an official before leaving the field.
    "I said, 'Man, I'm sorry to make you do that do me. I didn't mean to put you in that position,"' Tasker said. "Even though I had no intention of pushing an official, it is a rule and it was probably the right call."