The Buffalo Bills have cut ties with punter Matt Araiza amid rape accusations that have arisen this week.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on August 27 that Araiza had been released.
“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,” Schefter reported.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane confirmed Araiza’s release in a Saturday evening press conference.
The rookie punter is the subject of a lawsuit from a California woman who claims that he and other members of the San Diego State football team raped a 17-year-old at a party last year. Ariaza’s lawyer, Kerry Armstrong, strongly denied the claim.
“He is 100% adamant that he never forcibly raped this young lady or forcibly had sex with her in any type of way or had sexual relations with her when she was intoxicated, be it alcohol and/or drugs,” Armstrong said in an appearance on CBS 8.
Araiza put out his own statement on Friday, saying that he hoped to set the record straight.
“The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press,” Araiza said in the statement to News 4 reporter Heather Prusak through his agent, Joe Linta. “I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”
But Araiza was held out of Buffalo’s final preseason game on Friday, and close to 24 hours later the team announced that it was moving on.
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Bills Looking Into New Punters
There had been signs that the Bills were planning to release Araiza. The Athletic’s Tim Graham reported earlier on on August 27 that the Bills are already preparing to look into other punting options.
“In speaking with agents who represent many NFL punters, I’m told the Bills are compiling a list of candidates to bring in for tryouts,” Graham tweeted.
Araiza was locked in a punting battle with Matt Haack during training camp, and the Bills released Haack earlier in the week. He has since been signed by the Indianapolis Colts.
There were other signs on Saturday that the Bills were distancing themselves from Araiza. WGR 550’s Sal Capaccio noted that the rookie was not at practice on Saturday, though the team made it a point to tell reporters that he was still on the roster at that point.
The Bills had also been scaling back Araiza’s presence on their team website.
“Informed by a fan, and just double-checked, the #Bills online store no longer has Araiza jerseys available,” tweeted John Wawrow, the Bills beat reporter with The Associated Press.
Bills Criticized for Handling of Araiza Accusations
Before the team announced the decision to release Araiza, they faced some harsh criticism for handling of the accusations. Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press said the team failed to properly investigate Araiza before taking him in the sixth round of the NFL Draft, despite several teams reportedly knowing of the accusations.
“A person familiar with the situation told the AP the Bills weren’t aware of the accusations against Araiza before the draft in April,” Maaddi wrote.”
“Several other teams executives also have told the AP they weren’t aware. 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.”