NFL: Bills P Matt Araiza held out of preseason finale

Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza did not play in the team’s final preseason game Friday night against the host Carolina Panthers.

Araiza and two of his former teammates at San Diego State were accused of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl at a party last fall in a civil lawsuit filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court.

Araiza is the only punter on Buffalo’s roster after it cut Matt Haack earlier this week. Dan Gilleon, the attorney for the accuser referred to as Jane Doe in court documents, said the Bills had knowledge of the accusation against Araiza earlier this summer, before they made that roster decision.

Backup quarterback Matt Barkley served as the Bills’ emergency punter against the Panthers.

Following the Bills’ 21-0 loss to the Panthers, Buffalo coach Sean McDermott spent much of his postgame press conference discussing Araiza.

McDermott said, “It is a situation that is extremely serious, just hard to go through and it’s not a situation that I or we take lightly whatsoever, and it’s very serious. I understand the sensitivity of the situation, and it’s clear we have work to do to continue to figure this thing out here and we’re going to do that.”

The coach said he made the decision not to play Araiza but wouldn’t confirm whether the punter would be on the team’s regular-season roster. While the Bills announced in a Thursday statement that they “conducted a thorough examination of this matter,” McDermott hinted that additional investigation is underway or is forthcoming.

“There’s work to be done,” McDermott said. “I’m not gonna go into details on that. We’ve got more work to do. …

“It’s just a matter of trying to find the truth at the end of the day, right? That’s the goal is find the truth and do the right thing. And that’s what I keep coming back to in my mind and my heart is find out the truth to the best of my ability and do the right thing.”

Araiza’s agent released a statement from the punter to several media outlets during Friday’s game.

“The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press,” Araiza said. “I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”

Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, has denied that his client raped anybody.

“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” Armstrong told the Los Angeles Times.

Gilleon released a diary entry of his client’s recollection of the night. She attended a house party and was approached by someone, allegedly Araiza, who offered her a drink. He then allegedly led her to a room where “several” other men already were, and they raped her for about 90 minutes.

Gilleon has also claimed that the Bills did not perform a thorough investigation after being informed of the allegations.

Araiza was a sixth-round pick of the Bills in the 2022 NFL Draft. At the time of the alleged rape, Araiza was in the midst of an unprecedented season and had earned the nickname “Punt God” for his pattern of long booming kicks. He was a unanimous All-American and won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter.

–Field Level Media

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