DETROIT — Bob Quinn, Rod Wood and Martha Firestone Ford came out united in their support of Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia when news of his 22-year-old arrest first surfaced this week. Now, one of the team’s most prominent players said the locker room is standing by its coach as well.
“I don’t know the full details, but I know inside of our locker room, we support Coach Patricia to the max,” receiver Golden Tate told the Free Press. “There was nothing — didn’t even go to court, I think it was thrown out, so why is it even a problem? Honestly, I feel for his family, who have to deal with this right now. And I know that this isn’t how we want to start the offseason dealing with this crap, and so it’s going to blow over, obviously, it always does.”
Patricia was arrested in March 1996 and accused of sexual assault during a spring break trip to South Padre Island, Texas.
The case was dismissed in January 1997 when the accuser declined to testify, and Patricia emphatically denied the allegation Thursday in a 7-minute press conference attended by Quinn, Wood and Ford.
Tate, who will speak at the inaugural Detroit Free Press Sports Award ceremony next Friday, said he watched Patricia’s press conference and that Patricia “pretty much said exactly what he said in the press conference” to players earlier in the day.
“I talked to the team today and I told them exactly what I said to you guys — and told them the truth,” Patricia said. “I also took this opportunity again, to one more time focus on the fact that in this time we do need to be sensitive and responsible, and I used this as a learning moment for them so we can all try to be better.”
Tate said players did not ask Patricia questions about the incident after their team meeting, but he acknowledged “there’s been discussions in the locker room, of course.”
Asked what was said in those discussions, Tate said, “It’s locker room talk.”
“We’re just going to try to stay focused and we are a family right now, which our job is to protect our family so as an organization we’re going to hover around Coach and his family and protect and love them the best way we can,” Tate said. “But this situation is completely, to me, unacceptable and a bunch of B.S. that it’s even got to this.”
“This guy’s been coaching for a bunch of years and now this comes up,” Tate added. “When I was applying for jobs at Chili’s when I was 18 and other jobs, they always ask on the applications, which is way lesser than what he’s applying for, obviously, but they ask you, have you been convicted of anything or do you have any misdemeanors or whatever it is? And both of those answers are no. So I don’t understand why this is coming up now, why it’s a big problem.”
Some observers have wondered whether revelations about Patricia’s arrest could undermine his credibility in the locker room, especially since he and Quinn have emphasized bringing high-character players into their program.
What happens, for instance, if a player is accused of a serious crime and denies his involvement?
“People that are bringing up the issue that it creates a risk that he has to deal with situations like this and looks like a hypocrite, I think that’s real,” former NFL executive Joe Banner said. “The day-to-day, being a head coach, I think he’ll be what he would and have the relationship with the locker room that he would have whether this happened or not.
“It will add to the players’ sense of unequal treatment in terms of how coaches and owners are treated by the leagues versus how players are treated by the league. Fair or unfair, it will create a discussion.”
Tate said he doesn’t think the allegation will impact how players view Patricia or muddy the message he’s trying to get across as a first-year coach.
“I think we have some great guys with common sense and great leadership inside of our locker room that if there is any negative talk, guys will shut that down pretty quickly because we understand what’s going on a little bit better and it’s probably — we’re going to rally around each other,” Tate said. “I just think it’s a bunch of bullcrap. I think it’s a bunch of B.S. that it’s even being talked about.”