Buffalo Bills rookie punter Matt Araiza, who was accused in a lawsuit Thursday of gang raping a 17-year-old girl when he was at San Diego State last year, will not dress for Friday’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The team’s kicker, Tyler Bass, and long-snapper, Reid Ferguson, ran out onto the field minutes prior to the announcement. Araiza, notably, was not with them, although he did travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the game.
Araiza is the only punter on the team’s roster after the Bills named him the starter with the release of punter Matt Haack on Monday. Bass and backup quarterback Matt Barkley were seen practicing punts before Friday’s game. Safety Micah Hyde and backup quarterback Case Keenum were both warming up as the backup holder.
The lawsuit, filed in San Diego County Superior Court and obtained by ESPN, accuses Araiza and two of his former San Diego State teammates of rape, gender violence and false imprisonment.
According to the lawsuit, Araiza, who was 21 at the time, had sex with the then-high school senior, who was under the age of consent in California, outside at an off-campus party held at his residence in the early hours of Oct. 17, 2021. The suit states that Araiza brought her inside a room where at least three other men were located, including two other men named in the suit, Zavier Leonard, a redshirt freshman with the Aztecs, and Nowlin Ewaliko, who was a freshman last season but is no longer on the listed roster.
Araiza’s criminal attorney, Kerry Armstrong, told ESPN that Araiza did not tell the Bills about the allegations until early June, when the Los Angeles Times reported that rape allegations against five Aztecs football players had not been investigated by San Diego State. The university said this was based on the San Diego Police Department’s request that the school not take any action in order to not interfere with a police investigation into the incident.
The Bills released a statement Thursday night stating that they “were recently made aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021. 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.”
Araiza was selected by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft after playing three seasons at San Diego State.