One of the most unexpected, yet exciting battles for a spot on the Buffalo Bills‘ roster earned its own nickname, Puntapalooza. The team faced a difficult decision as to which punter would get the starting role, veteran Matt Haack or Matt Araiza.
After the close of training camp and the conclusion of two preseason games, the Bills announced on Monday, August 22, that they were releasing Haack, which means Araiza, a.k.a. “The Punt God” is set to become the Bills’ new starter.
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Haack, who initially signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona State in 2017, signed with the Bills in 2021, where he proceeded to become the starting punter. However, his role was immediately put into question after the Bills selected Araiza with the No. 180 overall pick during the 2022 draft.
While Haack, 28, likely felt pressure competing against a 22-year-old rookie with such a famous reputation, he took the new addition in stride. “I can’t worry about what anyone else is doing,” Haack told The Buffalo News on July 29. “I’ve got to focus on my job and doing better than what I did the day before; what I did last year or the year before. So, it’s all about getting better each day and putting my best foot forward.”
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.”
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 Araiz’a 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.”
13WHAM sports anchor Dan Fetes agreed with Scott’s assessment. Fetes tweeted, “The Bills punting competition is over… ”
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