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NFLPA files reply brief in salary cap collusion lawsuit

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The NFL Players Association filed a reply brief and general counsel Tom DePaso filed a declaration in the union's collusion lawsuit against the NFL on Thursday in a Minnesota district court.

In the filings, the union fought against the NFL's arguments that last August's stipulation of dismissal should be invoked, and that the players "reasonably should have known" about the alleged "secret salary cap" in the uncapped year of 2010.

DePaso said in his declaration that the union found player spending to be up in 2010, and, in the cases of teams like the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, substantially so, which he said deflated any previous suspicions of collusion. In March, the Cowboys and Redskins were docked $10 million and $36 million, respectively, in cap space over the next two years by the league for taking advantage of the conditions of the uncapped year.

DePaso also detailed the imposition of the penalties against the Cowboys and Redskins. He said that, after the salary cap figures for 2012 had been negotiated, NFL senior VP for Labor Relations Peter Ruocco informed him that "the NFL would not agree with the NFLPA regarding the setting of the 2012 salary cap and the related benefit allocations unless the NFLPA also agreed to impose a salary cap reallocation covering the 2012 and 2013 seasons" on Dallas and Washington.

DePaso said that, in a subsequent conversation, NFL executive vice president and general counsel Jeff Pash told him that the penalties imposed on the Redskins and Cowboys were a "take it or leave it" condition of the agreement. The NFLPA's filings state the union had no knowledge of 2010 salary constraints on teams until comments came on the penalties by owners on March 12.

In a Friday statement, the NFLPA said, "the NFLPA informed the Court that in March 2012, once the NFL and Owners believed they were in the clear, they imposed punishments on two teams -- the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys -- that failed to fully honor the Owners' illegal conspiracy to collude during the uncapped 2010 season. Public comments by Owners in March 2012 about those punishments exposed what had been, until then, a carefully concealed agreement to violate the White Stipulation and Settlement Agreement (SSA.) But now, confronted with a damages claim for their admitted conspiracy, the Owners desperately seek to find some legal argument to shield them from redress for the willful violations of the anti-collusion provisions of the Reggie White antitrust settlement agreement."

The NFL responded to the NFLPA's claims Friday with the following statement:

"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.

"And so it's crystal clear: There was no collusion. There was no agreement. These claims are totally unfounded."

Oral arguments will be heard on Sept. 6 in Minneapolis before Judge David Doty.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer

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