The Buffalo Bills made their first decision on punter Matt Araiza after disturbing allegations were released this week. Buffalo decided not to play Araiza, the lone punter on its roster, in Friday night’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers after a civil lawsuit was filed involving Araiza and two former San Diego State teammates who have been accused of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl at a house party last year.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott said he made the call to sit Araiza. McDermott said the Bills are “trying to do what is right” when asked if Araiza will remain with the team.
“Just hard to go through,” McDermott said, via NFL Network. “It’s not a situation that I or we take lightly. It’s clear we have work to do to continue to figure this thing out here.”
The Buffalo News reported what would have been Araiza’s locker, the space between kicker Tyler Bass and long snapper Reid Ferguson, did not have a number plate. With Araiza out, Bills No. 3 quarterback Matt Barkley assumed punting duties. He booted a 33-yard punt with his first attempt and finished with an average of 40 yards per punt on four attempts.
Araiza is accused of having sex with a high school senior outside of an off-campus party, and then bringing her into a room where she was raped repeatedly. The two other men named in the suit are Zavier Leonard, a redshirt freshman with the Aztecs, and Nowlin Ewaliko, who was a freshman last season but is no longer on the listed roster.
Araiza’s lawyer, Kerry Armstrong, told the Los Angeles Times that the rape accusation is false, and that his investigator spoke to witnesses from the party who told a different story from the woman.
“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” Armstrong said. “There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Araiza [never] raped that girl.”
The Bills gave Araiza the punting job this week over veteran Matt Haack. The former punter didn’t take long to find work, as he was claimed off waivers by the Indianapolis Colts.
What the Bills decide to do with Araiza going forward will be closely monitored in the coming days. Friday’s call may have been a sign of the direction Buffalo is going.