Incentive pause

9/24/2012 - NFL

BOUNTYGATE has always been about more than crime and punishment, guilt and innocence. It's also about a question that's been lurking beneath the entire affair, which Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley nailed back in April. "You get a certain amount of sacks, you get an extra bonus -- is that considered a bounty?" he asked. "Is that putting that much more pressure to go out there and want to hit a quarterback because you know you have a $100,000 bonus coming if you do?"

Woodley's point forces us to confront two uncomfortable truths. The first: Leagues specify in great detail the kinds of contract provisions they will and won't allow, but "incentive clauses" are really just bonuses for acts they like, and "bounties" are bonuses for acts they don't like. The second and bigger truth: No matter what you call them, these rewards are doomed to be ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst.