Before each of his 187 NFL games, Trevor Pryce said, informal, off-the-cuff offers of money to be paid for important plays circulated through the locker room.

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Before each of his 187 NFL games, Trevor Pryce said, informal, off-the-cuff offers of money to be paid for important plays circulated through the locker room.

“Five hundred for a punt-return touchdown,” someone would say, and one teammate, or five, would jump to match.

“Four hundred if you make a big hit on the kickoff,” someone else would shout.

To special-teams players, those at the bottom of the pay scale, that money was significant, in some cases as much or more than their weekly paycheck. Pryce once paid a Denver Broncos teammate $1,000 for forcing a fumble on a kickoff. The system worked, Pryce said, so the players who made such plays also collected from their teammates. He remembered some who carried a pencil and paper with them before games.

“It’s pretty much standard operating procedure,” said Pryce, who is now retired. “It made our special teams better. I know dudes who doubled their salary from it. Trust me, it happens in some form in any locker room. It’s like a democracy, the inmates governing themselves.”

On Friday, the NFL released the results of its investigation of the New Orleans Saints, who the league said used a bounty system, paying cash to players who injured opponents, from 2009 to 2011. This system was mainly financed by Saints players, which struck Pryce as normal, but also included detailed record keeping, which Pryce found strange, a level beyond what he understood as the common practice, because “that says the organization was in on it,” Pryce said.

In 14 NFL seasons, with three teams, Pryce said he never witnessed a teammate get paid to injure an opponent. Pryce said he never heard of any bounty systems, either, at least not one that he took seriously.

“It is said, yes, knock his helmet off, get an extra $10,000,” Pryce said. “Or $100,000 if a guy gets carted off the field. That stuff is all said in jest, in a tongue-in-cheek way. It’s like betting on the sun not coming up.

“It’s not like the Saints are playing against Holy Trinity College. They’re playing against other NFL players. I don’t think teams really mean it that way. Now, a big hit is different. Getting rewarded for a big hit, they do that in college. You get a sticker on your helmet.”

For 10 seasons with two teams, linebacker Bart Scott prided himself on playing physical defense. When Baltimore played the Seahawks, Scott said the scouting report reinforced that the Ravens needed to hit Shaun Alexander hard, because the report said Alexander avoided contact. The New York Giants, Scott said, intended to hit Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.

Those intentions, Scott argued, are no different from the so-called bounties offered by the Saints.

“You can’t just read the words, you have to know the intent,” Scott said. “Knocking someone out doesn’t mean you’re doing something dirty. It’s no different from when the Detroit Pistons played Michael Jordan and every time he went to the hole, they were physical with him. No one was literally trying to hurt him.

“To a certain extent, the league could investigate every team and find the same exact stuff.”

The NFL, Scott said, overreacted to the word “bounty.” He said the evidence, if the Saints had purposely injured their opponents, would be on film. If a defensive player wanted to hurt an offensive one, Scott said, “it’s not hard to do.” But such malicious intention, Scott added, would be obvious, in a blow to the back of the head, or a dive at the knees.


• The Saints placed the franchise tag on Drew Brees — giving them exclusive negotiating rights with their Pro Bowl quarterback for the next year. Brees has been involved in lengthy contract talks with the Saints and, without the tag, could have negotiated with other teams as a free agent.

• Colts owner Jim Irsay has promised $50,000 to the relief efforts for tornado victims in southern Indiana. A severe storm front leveled parts of several states on Friday, killing at least 38 people. The worst damage appeared centered in the small towns of southern Indiana and eastern Kentucky’s Appalachian foothills.

The Associated Press contributed

to this report.