Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott spoke Friday for the first time since Bills rookie punter Matt Araiza was charged in a civil lawsuit Thursday with participating in the gang rape of a minor at an off-campus party at San Diego State University in 2021.
McDermott said Araiza will return home with the team and declined to comment on whether he thought Araiza would stay with the team after Tuesday’s roster final cuts.
“I understand there was a game just played, but I want to talk about something more important, which is what we have with one of our team members in At this time, Matt Araiza’s situation which is extremely serious,” McDermott said to begin his post-match press conference. “Just tough to get through and it’s not a situation that I or we take lightly, and it’s very serious. I understand the sensitivity of the situation, and it’s clear we have work to do to keep going. understand this thing here, and we’re going to do this.”
Araiza also released a statement earlier on 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 in his team’s preseason final against the Carolina Panthers on Friday. Araiza traveled with the team to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday and was in attendance before the game on Friday. He is currently the only bettor on the Bills roster. Buffalo backup quarterback Matt Barkley made a punt for the team on Friday.
McDermott said it was his decision for Araiza not to play on Friday, adding: “At the end of the day, I didn’t think it was right to do that.”
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court, alleges that Araiza had sex with a then 17-year-old girl at an off-campus house, where Araiza resided, then took her to a room where she was repeatedly raped. Araiza was charged along with two other football players: Zavier Leonard, currently on the San Diego State roster; and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko, who is not 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 top bettor before forfeiting 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 recently became aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021,” the Bills said in a statement Thursday, obtained by NFL Network’s Mike Giardi. “Due to the seriousness of the complaint, we have conducted a thorough review of this matter. As this is an ongoing civil matter, we will have no further comment at this stage.”
When asked on Friday whether he thought the team had done their due diligence in reviewing the matter with respect to the statement released by the team, McDermott said he “would not go into details about it”.
“It’s just a matter of trying to find the truth at the end of the day, that’s the point is to find the truth and do the right thing,” McDermott said, “And that’s what to what I keep coming back to in my mind and heart, is to find out the truth to the best of my ability and do the right thing.”
The NFL Personnel Conduct Policy does not apply to incidents that occur before a player is drafted or joins a team. If criminal charges are filed against Araiza, however, then he will be subject to league investigation and possible disciplinary action, per league policy.
Kerry Armstrong, Araiza’s attorney, denied the rape charge, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Araiza was selected in the sixth round of the 2022 draft.