Willson Says Support For Patricia Is Unanimous In Lions Locker Room

"I feel very comfortable with him as our leader."

Will Burchfield
May 15, 2018 - 1:40 pm

(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

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There should be zero concern that the resurfaced sexual assault allegation against Matt Patricia will burden the Lions this season, tight end Luke Willson said on Tuesday. 

"Absolutely not. Absolutely not," Willson said, twice for good measure, when asked if the news might hang over the team's head. 

"We're professional athletes. You guys heard what Coach Patricia said in his statement, and we heard what Coach Patricia said in the team room. We're ready to move on and get better at football," said Willson. "You guys all know, it's a cutthroat environment, the NFL, and it's a competitive environment around here, so it's one of those things where we gotta focus on football." 

Patricia was indicted on one count of aggravated sexual assault in an alleged incident involving a 21-year-old woman on South Padre Island in Texas in 1986. The case was dismissed when the accuser decided not to testify. 

The Lions head coach reiterated his innocence in a meeting with his players after the accusation resurfaced last week. As he later said in a press conference, "I was falsely accused of something I did not do."

“I talked to the team today and told them exactly what I said to you guys, and told them the truth," Patricia said last Thursday. "I also took this opportunity again, one more time, to focus on the fact that in this time we do need to be sensitive and responsible. I used this as a learning moment for them so we can all try to be better.” 

Willson kept the details of the meeting private, but said the players unanimously stand behind their coach. 

"What happens in the team meeting room stays in there. We all support him, and it's back to football for us. We're pretty focused in right now, because as you can see we're sweating, we're working -- I'm not a big sweater, man," Willson quipped at the end. 

When he first heard the news, Willson said he refrained from jumping to conclusions.

"To be honest, I kept an open mind," he said. "I believe in Coach Patricia and listened to what he said." 

The tight end Willson, a five-year vet, signed with the Lions in March. Less than two months later, his new head coach was embroiled in controversy. While that might seem unsettling on the surface, Willson dismissed the idea it served as any kind of first impression.   

"I met with Coach Patricia through free agency, called some people that I had known throughout the league and I've got a pretty good grasp on who I believe Coach Patricia is. And you can tell, we've had squad meetings before. I feel very comfortable with him as our leader," Willson said. "Again, it's business as usual around here. It's football."