DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – In the immortal words of Darren Hambrick, “What do voluntary mean?”

The loquacious Dallas Cowboys’ linebacker infamously issued that retort after being criticized by fans and head coach Dave Campo for missing a minicamp in the spring of 2001. He was technically right, of course, as the minicamps weren’t bound by his contract, but more so merely a strong suggestion by his team.

Not that the Cowboys should dust off and prop up the nefarious Hambrick as their spokesman, but they could offer a reprise of his stance in their impending battle with the NFL on their supposed violation of rules that, well, weren’t even rules. How the hell can the NFL punish the Cowboys and the Washington Redskins for breaking the spirit of a non-law?

They can’t. But they have.

Two weeks ago the NFL announced it was docking the Cowboys $10 million and the Redskins a whopping $36 million for maliciously circumventing the non-salary cap year of 2010. According to New York Giants’ owner and chair of the league’s management committee, John Mara, the teams attempted to gain an unfair advantage by taking advantage of a non-cap loophole allowing them to front-load contracts in ’10.

“I thought the penalties imposed were proper,” Mara told reporters at this week’s owners’ meetings in Florida. “What they did was in violation of the spirit of the salary cap. They attempted to take advantage of a one-year loophole, and quite frankly, I think they’re lucky they didn’t lose draft picks.”

Replied Cowboys’ vice president Stephen Jones, “That’s John’s opinion. That’s not my opinion.”

Said Mara, “They attempted to take advantage of it knowing full well there would be consequences.”

Huh? How’s that again?

So, let me get this straight, the Cowboys and Redskins have been issued speeding tickets for driving fast on a highway that, at the time, had no posted speed limit? Worse, the officer writing the citations is none other than their NFC East nemesis?

This is gonna be good. Because the Cowboys and Redskins are right.

The teams formally field a grievance over the weekend, one that will be heard by arbitrator Stephen Burbank.

While the Cowboys lost $5 million in cap space this year and next, they shouldn’t have been penalized at all. The definition of a loophole is that it’s a hole. It’s not cheating. It’s maximizing an advantage. Right?

Besides, if the owners got together in ’10 and constructed a slimy agreement that limited what they would pay players, that, my friends, is grounds for collusion.

Not so, says Mara. Who, obviously, is absolutely wrong.

“This has nothing to do with collusion. It has to do with teams attempting to gain a competitive advantage through a loophole in the system. There was nothing wrong with the individual contracts, but when you look at the overall scope of what they did, they were trying to take advantage and they were told not to.”

Let’s face it, Mara and his fellow billionaire brethren are being arrogant, petty little babies.

The Cowboys and Redskins broke no actual rules. Therefore, there should be no actual penalties.

Because, after all, what do voluntary mean?

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