The NFL has determined sexual assault allegations against Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia from 1996 are not subject to its personal conduct policy.
"The allegations occurred well before his affiliation with the NFL," the league said Monday after completing its review of the Lions' interviewing process.
Patricia has said he was falsely accused of allegations that resurfaced in a Detroit News report . The accuser did not testify and the case was dismissed. He and a friend were indicted 22 years ago by a Texas grand jury on one count each of aggravated sexual assault. They were accused of assaulting a woman on South Padre Island.
"I was innocent then," Patricia said earlier this month, a day after the newspaper report. "And, I am innocent now."
The Lions have said a pre-employment background check did not reveal the incident and they are standing by Patricia.
The NFL review determined the Lions were appropriate and thorough during the interview process. The league said Patricia did not mislead anyone with the Lions and adds he was under no league or other requirement to raise the issue.
"We determined that the Lions handled the interview process in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner and fully and appropriately complied with all applicable employment laws," the league said. "As we learned from both Mr. Patricia and the Lions, the matter was not part of his employment interview process for job opportunities outside of or within the NFL."
The Lions hired Patricia in February after firing Jim Caldwell. The former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offensive lineman was hired by the Patriots in 2004. Patricia became one of Bill Belichick's top assistants, serving as defensive coordinator from 2012 through last season.
"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 earlier this month. "We have always been confident in Matt's character and recommended him highly to become the head coach of the Detroit Lions."