Oakland Raiders rookie Gareon Conley is speaking for the first time since he was cleared in his rape case -- saying he knows he's 100% innocent but "could've exercised better judgment."
As we previously reported, a grand jury decided to NOT move forward with charges against the 1st round draft pick -- after a woman claimed Conley raped her in an Ohio hotel back in April.
Conley claimed they engaged in consensual oral sex but he did not force himself on her in any way.
Now, Conley tells TMZ Sports, "I am thankful that this burden has been lifted as I enter training camp with my new teammates and organization. I am thankful to the City of Cleveland and the Cleveland police for reaching a conclusion based on the facts, not speculation. I am thankful to the Raiders organization for believing in me, drafting me, and supporting me."
"Finally, I am thankful to my agent and my team for never relenting in their defense of me as a person and client."
"The past few months have been extremely trying for me and my family. Although I was the target of malicious and false accusations, I do realize however that I could've exercised better judgment and that there are still lessons for me to take away and grow from."
"I look forward to earning my role with the Raiders and hopefully rewarding them for believing in me."