Former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza has restarted his career with a new football team in another country.
The former 2022 draft pick, who was released by the team after being named in a civil suit from a woman claiming he raped her at a 2021 house part off of the San Diego State University campus, has signed with a professional football team in Tijuana, Mexico. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, Galgos de Tijuana announced on February 16 that they had signed the punter to a contract.
Araiza, who denied the allegations and said in court documents filed in January that he is innocent, will now get the chance to play football nearly a year after first being drafted by the Bills.
Araiza’s Path Back to Football
After using a sixth-round draft pick to select the punter, the Bills released him shortly after allegations were made public in the summer.
“Bills have informed rookie punter Matt Araiza that he is being released, effective immediately. Araiza has been accused along with two others of gang raping a 17-year-old girl last year in a civil lawsuit filed on Thursday,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported in August.
Araiza’s selection led to scrutiny of the Bills, as Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press reported that the team failed to properly investigate Araiza even though other teams were aware of the allegations against him. Maaddi added that it was unclear just how much information about the allegations was available to teams that interviewed him during the pre-draft process.
“Several other teams executives also have told the AP they weren’t aware,” Maaddi wrote. “But executives from two different teams told the AP they became aware of Araiza’s involvement in an incident during the draft process. Neither person knew the extent of the accusations and both people said it didn’t impact Araiza’s status on their draft boards because they weren’t interested in selecting the punter.”
The Bills had already released punter Matt Haack prior to the allegations against Araiza surfacing, leaving them briefly without a punter in the days leading up to the start of the season. They would go on to sign veteran punter Sam Martin, who was released by the Denver Broncos at the end of training camp. The former All-Pro punter had a 47.7-yard average on 45 punts during the regular season.
Araiza now has the chance to play close to his home in San Diego, signing with Tijuana’s team in the Liga de Fútbol Americano Profesional. The American football league was founded in 2016, with Tijuana joining last season.
No Charges for Araiza
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced in December that none of the former San Diego State players accused of the assault, including Araiza, would be charged. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, the decision was praised by Araiza’s attorney, who had maintained the player’s innocence.
“I never felt, not even for a second, that (Araiza) was lying to me about what happened that night,” Kerry Armstrong said. “I felt confident, based on what I knew, that they would reject the case.”