GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -A running back can give each of his offensive linemen a nice wristwatch at the end of the season to reward them for their blocking. Dan Marino can make commercials about giving his offensive linemen gloves to get on their good side.
So what's wrong with defensive players offering financial incentives to teammates for achieving specific defensive goals?
That was the question of the day in Green Bay on Tuesday, where Packers defensive backs Charles Woodson and Al Harris were backpedaling as if it was gameday after their apparent willingness to pay teammates for their play attracted scrutiny from NFL officials.
``I don't see anything wrong with it, but obviously the league has a policy and they're enforcing it,'' Woodson said. ``That's all I can say about it.''
Woodson said he honestly didn't know such payments were against the rules, because he'd heard that other teams did it.
Woodson also wanted to make it clear the Packers weren't offering ``bounties'' in the traditional sense - they didn't want anybody to get hurt.
``I didn't know the league had a strict policy on it as far as what you can do,'' Woodson said. ``But I know one thing about our team: Nobody went out there trying to hurt anybody, even if there was some sort of bounty. We're not those type of players. So we're not worried about that at all.''
Harris was more evasive, insisting he hadn't heard anything about it.
``You guys are calling me a liar,'' Harris said. ``I'm appalled.''
Harris then began answering additional questions about bounties by talking about Thursday's opponent, the Detroit Lions.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed Monday that league officials are investigating whether Packers players offered such payments to teammates.
League rules prohibit teams and players ``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.''
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday the issue was a ``miscommunication,'' and took the blame, along with general manager Ted Thompson.
``That's Ted's and my responsibility,'' McCarthy said. ``I don't think the players thought that they were doing anything wrong.''
Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett and several other players declined comment.
``It's not a distraction,'' Pickett said. ``We're just not talking about it.''
ESPN reported that Packers players offered to pay the team's defensive linemen $500 each if they were able to hold Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson under 100 yards rushing two weeks ago. They offered another $500 for holding Carolina to under 60 yards rushing as a team on Sunday.
Woodson and Harris had an unlikely ally on Tuesday: Lions quarterback Jon Kitna, who will face the Packers' defense on Thursday and didn't seem to think it was a big deal.
``I don't know if it is against the rules. If it is, it shouldn't be,'' Kitna said. ``They're not paying people to go out and hurt somebody. They're just paying people to do their job.''
Peterson was held to 45 yards rushing before he left the Vikings' Nov. 11 loss to the Packers with an injury. But the Panthers rushed for 131 yards in Sunday's loss to Green Bay.
Speaking to reporters on a regularly scheduled conference call Tuesday in advance of Thursday's game, Kitna said such incentives were an acceptable and effective way to motivate teammates.
``If I'm a defensive lineman that's getting paid minimum (salary) to play this game, or a little bit lower salary, and I can earn an extra $500, shoot, you know what? That might inspire me to do more,'' Kitna said.
This certainly isn't the first time Kitna was aware of such things happening in an NFL locker room.
``I've heard of things in my past where, hey, if there's a tackle inside the 20 on a kickoff or something like that, they will throw $100 into the pot or whatever,'' Kitna said. ``I don't know. It's nothing that I've seen in a long time.''
The league's rule against bounties was written mainly to prevent teams or players from rewarding teammates for injuring opposing players, something that has been a league-wide concern in the past.
But while Peterson was injured in the game against the Packers, that didn't appear to be the Packers' goal. After making the tackle that injured Peterson, Harris went out of his way to make sure the rookie running back was OK after the game.
It later was discovered that Peterson tore the lateral collateral ligament in his knee on the play. He has yet to return for the Vikings.
``You never want to see a guy injured,'' Harris said after the Vikings game. ``You never want to see a guy go down with an injury. He's having such a great year.''

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