After training camp and two preseason games, the Buffalo Bills decided rookie Matt Araiza, a.k.a “The Punt God,” would be the team’s starter for the 2022 NFL season, and released veteran Matt Haack on Monday, August 22.
Haack didn’t remain jobless for long. Two days after his release, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that he was taking his talents to the AFC South, and signing with the Indianapolis Colts.
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The 28-year-old left-footer faced competition in Indianapolis, as the team invited five other punters to try out on Wednesday, August 24, as reported by the Indy Star‘s Joel A. Erickson. After the Colts starter, Rigoberto Sanchez, suffered a torn Achilles tendon in practice earlier this week, which turned out to be a season-ending injury, the team needed to find a replacement as soon as possible.
Haack, who’s entering his sixth season in the NFL, was the type of player the team was looking for. “You don’t want to throw a guy out there that doesn’t have (enough) experience,” Colts special teams’ coach Bubba Ventrone told the Indy Star.
Erickson reported that Haack, who initially signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2017 as an undrafted player out of Arizona State, won the job out from “a group that included long-time Falcons punter Matt Bosher, former Cowboys punter Hunter Niswander, USFL punters Colby Wadman and Brock Miller, CFL punter/kicker Matt Mengel, and undrafted punter/kicker Cameron Dicker.”
The Bills Special Teams Coach Praised Haack for How He Took Araiza Under His Wing
During training camp at St. John Fisher College, the Bills’ special team coordinator, Matthew Smiley, said Haack mentored Araiza from get-go. “I’ve been so impressed with the way he’s carried himself as a man through the course of this competition, the spring and camp,” Smiley said of Haack.
“There have been times when Matt Araiza has asked Matt Haack questions, and Matt Haack has helped him out and talked to him about different details of trying to be a player in the NFL. I can’t speak enough to the type of human being it takes to know you are fighting for your job and you’re still willing to do the right thing when it comes to interacting with somebody.”
As for Araiza, he’s grateful for Haack’s guidance. “I think it just shows his character,” he said of Haack. “A lot of people would rather just mind their own business, try and win the job. But the fact that he’s an open book and I can go ask him questions, I think is a huge help to me.”
Bills head coach Sean McDermott told reporters on Monday that they decided cut Haack early so he could get settled with a new team before the season started. “Just felt like it was time to move on with one punter in camp,” McDermott said.
“Sometimes it’s numbers and also wanting to give Matt Haack a chance to get out there and catch on with another team. What we’ve seen to this point with Matt Araiza is that he’s off to a good start, doesn’t mean it’s where he needs to be… he’s not arrived. And speaking to Matt this morning, he echoed those sentiments in terms of, he’s earned nothing and need to continue to work.”
Araiza’s 82-Yard Punt During Preseason Likely Sealed the Deal
While there was worry over whether or not Araiza could hold his weight as a holder, he seems to be doing just fine. During the third quarter of the Bills’ preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts, he held the ball for kicker Tyler Bass, who drilled a 48-year field goal.
But what truly impressed analysts across the league was when the former San Diego State player connected on an 82-yard punt during the first half of the game, video of which quickly went viral on Twitter.
Spectrum News 1 Buffalo reporter Jon Scott Jon Scott tweeted after seeing Araiza’s stunning kick that the Bills should release Haack as soon as possible to give him a shot to land with another team before the season starts. “Matt Araiza will have his ups and downs, like Tyler Bass his rookie year, but he’s definitely the guy.”
After Araiza won out as the team’s starting punter, Bills quarterback Josh Allen joked that he can’t be called “The Punt God,” and chose a new nickname for the 2022 sixth-round pick, “The Hold God,” because he wants to keep Arariza off the field as much as possible.
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sounds like a Haack job to me!