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“At no time did the league indicate there was any type of secret agreement or secret cap — or anything else that would have put the union in an entirely different frame of mind,” Kessler said. “All I can tell you is we trusted the league at its word.”

The aftermath of the reallocation plan produced evidence of past collusion, the union asserts.

Specifically, the lawsuit cites as evidence comments John Mara, owner of the New York Giants and chair of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee, made at the league’s annual meetings March 25.

“It has to do with teams attempting to gain a competitive advantage through a loophole in the system,” the lawsuit quotes Mara as telling reporters. “They attempted to take advantage of it knowing full well there would be consequences. [W]hen you look at the overall scope of what they did, they were trying to take advantage and they were told not to.”

The suit also cites NFL commissioner Roger Goodell saying in late March: “[T]he rules were articulated. [T]he rules were quite clear.”

The NFL rejected the union’s claim.

“The filing of these claims is prohibited by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and separately by an agreement signed by the players’ attorneys last August,” NFL senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello wrote on Twitter. “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.”

Kessler, however, disputed that.

“The document they are referring to was not accepted by the district court in Minnesota,” he said. “It was rejected, and the court entered an order that only dismissed claims that were pending.”

The NFLPA plans to present more evidence than the quotes included in the lawsuit, Kessler said.

“The challenge here for the NFLPA is gathering enough evidence to show that the fact that these teams seem to have had players sign all up to the same level was a result of an actual agreement, whether it be a written agreement or a tacit understanding between the parties involved,” said Marc Edelman, a sports law expert and professor of law at Barry University School of Law. “That will be very heavily fact-intensive.”