The 2010 NFL season is generating more headlines this week than the looming 2012 season. A day after the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins saw their appeal of cap penalties for contracts handed out in 2010 dismissed, the NFLPA filed a collusion claim against the league for actions taken as a result of the no-cap year in 2010.
The player's union is claiming that the NFL imposed a "secret" $123 million salary cap for teams during the 2010 season. According to the NFLPA complaint, that would violate anti-collusion and anti-circumvention provisions of the Reggie White settlement. In more simple terms, the owners agreed to a secret cap on player salaries despite opting out of the collective bargaining agreement that imposed a cap and the owners then set a new cap without the involvement of the NFLPA.
Quoted in the NFLPA release detailing the complaint, executive director Dominique Foxworth said:
"Our union recently learned that there was a secret salary cap agreement in an uncapped year. The complaint today is our effort to fulfill our duty to every NFL player. They deserve to know, above all, the facts and the truth about this conspiracy."
The NFLPA complaint stems from a quote from Giants owner John Mara in the wake of the penalties leveled against the Cowboys and the Redskins. Asked about the punishment for those two teams, Mara revealed the secret directive to restrict player salaries, according to the union.
On Tuesday, Special Master Stephen Burbank dismissed an appeal by the Cowboys and Redskins over the league's punishment, citing an agreement signed by the league and the union that redistributed the money taken from those two teams' 2012 cap space. The players union says that it was forced to sign that agreement under the threat of having the cap reduced league-wide.
In a response, the NFL says such claims are not allowed under the CBA and the agreement signed by the two entities in August 2011. League spokesperson Greg Aiello said:
"The filing of these claims is prohibited by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and separately by an agreement signed by the players' attorneys last August. The claims have absolutely no merit and 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."
NFL owners in 2010 voted to opt out of the previous collective bargaining agreement. That allowed for the uncapped season that same year, and set up the lockout that stretched from March 2011 through the end of July 2011. The lockout ended with a new 10-year CBA.