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DeMaurice Smith says NFLPA's collusion suit will hold up

NFL players union chief DeMaurice Smith said Thursday that his group's claim of collusion against the NFL will stand up in court.

"My view is that the facts that we had justified and supported the complaint that we filed," Smith told reporters outside union headquarters in Washington.

The NFL Players Association claimed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota on Wednesday that the 32 teams had a secret salary cap in place during the uncapped 2010 season, and that it cost players at least $1 billion in wages.

Hours after the court action Wednesday, the NFL issued a statement saying "the union's claims have absolutely no merit and we fully expect them to be dismissed."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello added: "There was no collusion. There was no agreement. These claims are totally unfounded."

The union filed the suit a day after the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys had grievances dismissed for intentionally violating the spirit of competitive balance during the uncapped year. The league accused the teams of dumping salaries into the 2010 season to avoid a larger cap hit in future seasons. NFL owners voted to strip the Redskins of $36 million and the Cowboys of $10 million in cap space over the next two seasons for overspending in 2010.

Smith said that if the union feels the league doesn't conduct itself properly, "we will, on behalf of our players, always act in their best interest.

"The 32 teams are defendants of the action right now. If there is evidence that is developed later on that would demonstrate that any one of those teams did not abide by the conspiracy, then my guess is those teams will make the appropriate assertions, and we'll see where we end up."

The complaint accuses the league of setting a $123 million salary cap for the 2010 season, when owners did not have the authority to do so.

Smith did not paint a flattering portrait of the NFL in making the union's case Thursday.

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"Cartels do what cartels will do when left unchecked," Smith said.

According to the league, the collective bargaining agreement signed last August to end the 4 1/2 month lockout had clauses precluding the union from filing such a complaint. But NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler disputed that Wednesday, saying a portion of those clauses was rejected by the court.

As for the discord between the union and the league, Smith said it shouldn't be surprising.

"We all got along, and the league locked us out," Smith said. "We certainly had players across history who left every bit of blood, sweat and tears on the field. And yet, the National Football League continues to fight us on a number of workers' (compensation) cases."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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