Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia again denied allegations he was involved in a sexual assault in 1996 in a previously scheduled press conference at the team facility on Thursday.
“Thankfully, truth is on my side,” Patricia said reading a prepared statement after discussing a bombshell report with his team earlier in the day. “I was innocent then, and I am innocent now.”
Patricia said his mission is to move forward, “100 percent the head coach of the Detroit Lions,” and said he was never asked about the incident during the interview process.
Patricia, then a football player for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and one of his friends were accused of sexually assaulting a woman in South Padre Island, Texas, during spring break in 1996.
Patricia said what’s important “is what didn’t happen” 22 years ago.
“I was falsely accused of something I did not do. I did nothing wrong. That’s all I’m going to say on this matter,” Patricia said.
Patricia, then 21, and Greg Dietrich, then 22, were arrested and later indicted by a grand jury on a count of sexual assault, according to the Detroit News. The charges later were dropped without a trial when the woman declined to testify, according to the News.
“I went through the process and the case was dismissed,” Patricia said.
When asked Thursday if he had consensual sex with the alleged victim, Patricia said “I did nothing wrong.”
Patricia repeated that the incident did not come up in the interview process with the Lions.
“As far as the interview process (with the Lions) is concerned, there was nothing that I did not answer truthfully,” Patricia said.
Patricia addressed his team Thursday and told them he was focused on football, denied the allegations of assault and encouraged players and coaches to “be sensitive and responsible, use this as a learning moment for them.”
Patricia released a statement Wednesday through the Lions that read, “As someone who was falsely accused of this very serious charge over 22 years ago, and never given the opportunity to defend myself and clear my name, I find it incredibly unfair, disappointing, and frustrating that this story would resurface now with the only purpose being to damage my character and reputation.
“I firmly maintain my innocence, as I have always done. I would never condone any of the behavior that was alleged and will always respect and protect the rights of anyone who has been harassed or is the victim of violence.
“My priorities remain the same — to move forward and strive to be the best coach, teacher, and man that I can possibly be.”
Lions team owner Martha Ford, president Rod Wood and general manager Bob Quinn put out a joint statement that read, in part, “There was no settlement agreement with the complaining individual (regarding the alleged assault), no money exchanged hands and there was no confidentiality agreement. In discussions today with Lions management, the (Detroit News) reporter involved acknowledged that the allegations have not been substantiated.
“As an organization, The Detroit Lions take allegations regarding sexual assault or harassment seriously. Coach Patricia was the subject of a standard pre-employment background check which did not disclose this issue. We have spoken to Coach Patricia about this at length as well as the attorney who represented him at the time. Based upon everything we have learned, we believe and have accepted Coach Patricia’s explanation and we will continue to support him.
“We will continue to work with our players and the NFL to further awareness of and protections for those individuals who are the victims of sexual assault or violence.”
Wood also told the News, “I am very comfortable with the process of interviewing and employing Matt. I will tell you with 1,000 percent certainty that everything I’ve learned confirmed what I already knew about the man and would have no way changed our decision to make him our head coach.”
Patricia was an assistant coach with the New England Patriots from 2004-2017, spending the past six years as the team’s defensive coordinator. He helped lead the club to three Super Bowl championships and six Super Bowl appearances.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised Patricia’s character and integrity in a statement on Thursday.
“For 14 years in our organization, Matt conducted himself with great integrity and is known to be an outstanding coach, person and family man,” Belichick said in a statement. “We have always been confident in Matt’s character and recommended him highly to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions.”
–Field Level Media