Before each of his 187 N.F.L. games, Trevor Pryce said, the 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.