The National Football League Players Association has filed a lawsuit in Minnesota, claiming the league instituted a secret salary cap for the 2010 season.
The NFLPA said league owners imposed a salary cap of $123 million per team for the year, which was supposed to be an uncapped season. The league went into a lockout the following summer before a new collective bargaining agreement was reached.
"When the rules are broken in a way that hurts the game, we have an obligation to act," said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. "We cannot stand by when we now know that the owners conspired to collude."
The complaint, filed in the United States District Court of Minnesota, cites New York Giants owner John Mara as publicly confirming that the league directed teams to restrict salaries during the 2010 season.
On Tuesday, the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys had a grievance dismissed by a special master and will have salary-cap reductions over the next two seasons for piling money into the uncapped year by front-loading contracts. The Redskins will have a cap reduction of $36 million over two years, while the Cowboys will suffer a $10 million hit in the same span.
The NFLPA cited a statement Mara made in reference to the penalties imposed by the league against the Cowboys and Redskins in its court filing.
"What they did was in violation of the spirit of the salary cap," the NFLPA quoted Mara as saying. "They attempted to take advantage of a one-year loophole ... full well knowing there would be consequences."
In its filing, the NFLPA alleges that the league's reason for penalizing the Redskins and Cowboys, as well as the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints, was for "not fully abiding by the Collusive Agreement."
The NFL issued a statement in response and said the new collective bargaining agreement, reached in August of last year, prohibits the filing of these claims.
"The filing of these claims is prohibited by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and separately, more by an agreement signed by the players' attorneys last August," league spokesman Greg Aiello wrote on his Twitter account.
"The claims have absolutely no merit & we fully expect them to be dismissed. On multiple occasions, the players and their representatives specifically dismissed all claims, known or unknown, whether pending or not regarding alleged violations of the 2006 CBA and the related settlement agreement. We continue to look forward to focusing on the future of the game rather than grievances of a prior era that have already been resolved.
"And so it is clear: There was no collusion. There was no agreement. These claims are totally unfounded."