Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott spoke Friday for the first time since Bills rookie punter Matt Araiza was accused on Thursday in a civil lawsuit of taking part in the gang rape of a minor during an off-campus party at San Diego State University in 2021.
McDermott said Araiza would return home with the team and declined to go into whether he believed Araiza would remain with the team past Tuesday’s final roster cuts.
“I understand that there was a game just played, but I want to talk about something that’s more important, which is what we have going on with one of our members of our team right now, the Matt Araiza situation that is extremely serious,” McDermott said to begin his postgame news conference. “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.”
Araiza also released a statement earlier Friday.
“The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press,” Araiza said in the statement obtained by NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. “I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”
Araiza did not play Friday in his team’s preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers. Araiza traveled with the team to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday and was in attendance pregame on Friday. He is currently the only punter on the Bills’ roster. Buffalo’s backup quarterback Matt Barkley punted for the team on Friday.
McDermott said it was his decision for Araiza not to play Friday, adding, “at the end of the day, I didn’t feel it was right to do that.”
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court, alleges Araiza had sex with a then-17-year-old girl at an off-campus home, where Araiza resided, and then took her to a room where she was repeatedly raped. Araiza was accused along with two other football players: Zavier Leonard, currently on the San Diego State roster; and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko, who is not listed on the team’s current roster. Araiza was a star punter for SDSU as a redshirt junior in 2021, winning the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter before foregoing his senior season to enter the 2022 NFL Draft.
No arrests have been made and San Diego Police have not publicly identified any suspects, according to the Associated Press.
“We were recently made aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021,” the Bills said in a statement on Thursday, obtained by NFL Network’s Mike Giardi. “Due to the serious nature of the complaint, we conducted a thorough examination of this matter. As this is an ongoing civil case, we will have no other comment at this point.”
When asked Friday if he believed the team had done its due diligence in looking into the matter in regard to the statement issued by the team, McDermott said he would not “go into details on that.”
“It’s just a matter of trying to find the truth at the end of the day, that’s the goal is find the truth and do the right thing,” McDermott said, “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.”
The NFL’s Personnel Conduct Policy does not apply to incidents that take place prior to a player being drafted or joining a team. If criminal charges are filed against Araiza, however, he would then be subject to a league investigation and potential disciplinary action, per the league policy.
Kerry Armstrong, Araiza’s attorney, has denied the rape accusation, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Araiza was selected in the sixth round of the 2022 draft.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll named Geno Smith the starter for Week 1 of the regular season on Friday night following the team’s preseason loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Smith was in a quarterback battle with Drew Lock.
The final week of preseason play continued Friday with four games. Here’s What We Learned.
Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold sustained an ankle injury during the second half of the game and was carted off the field to the locker room.
The Panthers’ preseason finale versus the Buffalo Bills has been delayed due to inclement weather in the Charlotte area.
Ronnie Stanley took a significant step toward a healthy return Friday when he passed his physical. The Ravens announced Stanley’s successful physical examination, clearing the way for him to get back on the field perhaps in time for Week 1.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston is expected to play versus the Chargers tonight, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. It will be Winston’s first game action since tearing his ACL in Week 8 of 2021.
New York Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims has requested a trade after finding himself buried on the depth chart, but head coach Robert Saleh isn’t ready to call it “over” with the third-year pro.
NFL.com keeps you up to date with all of the latest league news from around the NFL. Visit NFL.com’s transaction hub for a daily breakdown.
Chicago Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins was the subject of trade rumors less than a month ago, but now he’s looking at an opportunity to earn the starting job at right guard.
The Ravens bulked up their safety corps this offseason, signing Marcus Williams to a big free-agent deal and swiping rookie Kyle Hamilton with the draft. The decision to draft Hamilton in the first round caught starter Chuck Clark by surprise.
While the preseason numbers weren’t glowing, Jordan Love displayed improvement in his pocket presence and reading defenses, and threw a number of nice balls in Thursday night’s preseason loss in Kansas City.
You won’t want to miss a moment of the 2022 season!
NFL+ gives you the freedom to watch LIVE out-of-market preseason games, LIVE local and primetime regular season and postseason games on your phone or tablet, the best NFL programming on-demand, and MORE!
© 2022 NFL Enterprises LLC. NFL and the NFL shield design are registered trademarks of the National Football League.The team names, logos and uniform designs are registered trademarks of the teams indicated. All other NFL-related trademarks are trademarks of the National Football League. NFL footage © NFL Productions LLC.
Bills punter Matt Araiza releases statement following civil suit alleging gang rape: ‘I look forward to quickly setting the record straight’ – NFL.com