Alleged Packer intrasquad payoffs investigated

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November 20, 2007
— The Green Bay Packers acknowledged Monday that the National Football League is investigating whether their players broke league rules by paying other players for certain in-game goals.

The league prohibits players and teams “from offering or accepting bonuses to a player for his or his team’s performance against a particular team, a particular opposing player or players, or a particular group of an opposing team.”

ESPN reported Sunday that Packers defensive backs offered $500 to each of the team’s defensive linemen if they held Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to fewer than 100 yards in their Nov. 11 matchup.

Peterson finished the game with 45 yards in 11 carries, in part because he left the game with a right knee injury on a tackle by cornerback Al Harris, not a defensive lineman.

It was known inside the locker room that some players received cash payouts or gift cards to electronics stores in the week after that game.

The Packers’ defensive linemen were also reportedly offered another $500 if they held the Carolina Panthers to fewer than 60 yards rushing. The Panthers finished with 131 yards in the Packers’ 31-17 victory.

Coach Mike McCarthy was not aware of the report when he was asked during his morning news conference.

General manager Ted Thompson later said the team was cooperating with the inquiry and thought the players might not have known about the rule.

“We, certainly in management, knew of the prohibition on something like that,” Thompson said. “We’re not convinced the players knew about it and that would be a communication snafu and that would be my responsibility.”

Thompson said the team did not condone players paying bonuses for other players achieving certain goals during a game.

“Absolutely not. And the league doesn’t,” Thompson said. “But, again, I don’t believe any of the players thought they were doing anything wrong. We just hadn’t communicated that rule to them.”

Thompson was not made aware which players were involved but said he had his “suspicions.”

Harris ($5.2 million), Charles Woodson ($4 million), Frank Walker ($1.2 million) and Nick Collins ($809,780) are the only Packers defensive backs who make more than $500,000.

The players were not available to reporters Monday.

Although the players appeared to have no sinister motive for their alleged transgressions, the rule is in place to prevent that from happening.

All NFL teams were sternly warned that any in-game performance incentives would be taken seriously by the league office after the infamous “Bounty Bowl” between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving Day in 1989.

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