Dec 5, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Denver Broncos punter Sam Martin (6) punts the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs during the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Bills sign P Sam Martin to one-year deal

The Buffalo Bills announced Wednesday night that they signed punter Sam Martin to a one-year deal.

Martin, who was released by the Denver Broncos on Monday, fills the opening stemming from Saturday’s release of rookie Matt Araiza.

Buffalo released Araiza, a sixth-round draft choice, two days after a civil suit was filed accusing him of being involved in a gang rape last season at San Diego State.

Martin was reportedly let go by Denver after expressing he would not take a pay reduction from this season’s $2.25 million salary.

The 32-year-old Martin averaged 46.0 yards for Denver last season, his second with the team. He spent his first seven seasons with the Detroit Lions.

Martin has a 46.1 career average on 605 attempts over 139 NFL games. He was a fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft out of Appalachian State.

–Field Level Media

Buffalo Matt Araiza (19) and kicker Tyler Bass (2) celebrate a field goal during the Bills  27-24 win over Indianapolis in their preseason game Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022 at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park.

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Bills release P Matt Araiza due to gang-rape allegations

The Buffalo Bills released punter Matt Araiza on Saturday night, two days after the rookie was named in a civil lawsuit alleging he was one of three college players involved in a gang-rape of a 17-year-old girl last October.

The Bills received considerable backlash over the past two days and coach Sean McDermott held Araiza out of Friday’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers before the decision was reached Saturday to part ways with the former San Diego State star.

“This afternoon, we decided that releasing Matt Araiza was the best thing to do,” general manager Brandon Beane said during a press conference. “Our culture in Buffalo is more important than winning football games.”

The Bills released a statement Thursday professing they had done a “thorough examination” of the allegations against Araiza.

But as the uproar increased, Buffalo took another look at the situation, eventually coming to the conclusion that Araiza had to go.

“We tried to be thorough and thoughtful and not rush to judgment,” Beane said. “It’s not easy. You’re trying to put facts around a legal situation sometimes with limited information. … With it being a legal situation, there are certain things that we won’t be able to discuss.

“Ultimately, we thought it was best for everybody. It’s a very serious situation and with the serious nature of the allegations and we just don’t have the means to put all the facts together. There’s multiple versions of what happened.”

The lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court named Araiza and 2021 San Diego State teammates Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko.

Araiza is accused of having sex with the girl outside a house and then bringing her into a room where she was repeatedly assaulted and raped. The girl said the attack lasted for “about an hour and a half.”

The incident occurred in mid-October but San Diego State officials didn’t alert the campus community of the alleged rape and waited more than seven months to launch an investigation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

At the time of the rape, Araiza was in the midst of an unprecedented season and had earned the nickname “Punt God” for his pattern of long booming kicks. He joined legendary runner Marshall Faulk (1992, 1993) as the lone unanimous All-Americans in program history, won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter and finished the season with a NCAA-record 51.19-yard average.

Though Araiza had a reputation for having a strong leg, he was the third punter drafted when Buffalo tabbed him. Eyebrows were raised that day as to why Araiza fell in the draft.

Beane said Saturday that the Bills didn’t know about the alleged gang-rape situation.

“We did not know about this,” Beane said. “We’ve reached out to double-digit teams and no one had nothing on this. Nobody in the league knew about it. The names were sealed. Yes, if we had this, you know how important the character and the culture is important to me. Anything that would have come up like this, we would have taken him off our board.”

Still, Buffalo knew of the allegations earlier this week when the organization released holdover punter Matt Haack in favor of Araiza. In Friday’s preseason game, backup quarterback Matt Barkley handled the punting.

Coach Sean McDermott faced more than a dozen questions about Araiza in Friday’s postgame press conference and was clearly disturbed. On Saturday, he said Araiza seems to understand when told he would be released.

He also called the situation a difficult one.

“As Brandon said, we’ve tried to sort through a lot of information, it’s ongoing, and that to me has been one of the harder parts of this and that information continues to flow, it seems,” McDermott said.

–Field Level Media

Punter Matt Araiza sends the ball downfield during special teams drills on the last day of the Buffalo Bills training camp at St John Fisher University in Rochester Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022.

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Reports: Bills won’t play P Matt Araiza in preseason finale

Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza will not play in the team’s final preseason game Friday night against the host Carolina Panthers, multiple reports said.

Araiza and two of his former teammates at San Diego State were accused of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl at a party last fall in a civil lawsuit filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court.

Araiza is the only punter on Buffalo’s roster after it cut Matt Haack earlier this week. Dan Gilleon, the attorney for the accuser referred to as Jane Doe in court documents, said the Bills had knowledge of the accusation against Araiza earlier this summer, before they made that roster decision.

Gilleon has also claimed that the Bills did not perform a thorough investigation after being informed of the allegations.

Gilleon released a diary entry of his client’s recollection of the night. She attended a house party and was approached by someone, allegedly Araiza, who offered her a drink. He then allegedly led her to a room where “several” other men already were, and they raped her for about 90 minutes.

Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, has denied that his client raped anybody.

“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” Armstrong told the Los Angeles Times.

Reports said that Araiza traveled to Charlotte with the team for Friday’s preseason game but was not seen on the field with kicker Tyler Bass and long snapper Reid Ferguson before the game. Backup quarterback Matt Barkley warmed up as the punter.

Araiza was a sixth-round pick of the Bills in the 2022 NFL Draft. At the time of the rape, Araiza was in the midst of an unprecedented season and had earned the nickname “Punt God” for his pattern of long booming kicks. He was a unanimous All-American and won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter.

The Bills have only addressed the accusation via a statement Thursday, in which they said they “conducted a thorough examination of this matter” and would have no other comment with the civil case ongoing civil.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs kicker Matt Araiza (2) punts during the fourth quarter against the San Jose State Spartans at CEFCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Bills P Matt Araiza accused of rape during his San Diego State career

Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza and two of his former San Diego State teammates were accused of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl at a party last fall in a civil lawsuit filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court.

Araiza is accused of having sex with the girl outside a house and then bringing her into a room where she was repeatedly assaulted and raped. Also named in the suit are Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko.

The incident occurred in mid-October but San Diego State officials didn’t alert the campus community of the alleged rape and waited more than seven months to launch an investigation, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Times cited records showing that an athlete expressed concern to school officials about the lack of an investigation and wondered if football coaches were “trying to sweep it under the rug because our football team is doing so well.”

At the time of the rape, Araiza was in the midst of an unprecedented season and had earned the name “Punt God” for his pattern of long booming kicks. He joined legendary runner Marshall Faulk (1992, 1993) as the lone unanimous All-Americans in program history, won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter and finished the season with a NCAA-record 51.19-yard average.

According to the Times, Kerry Armstrong, the attorney for Araiza, denied his client raped anybody.

“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” Armstrong told the Times. “There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Araiza ever raped that girl.”

The Bills released a statement saying they are aware of the situation.

“We were recently made aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021,” the Bills said. “Due to the serious nature of the complaint, we conducted a thorough examination of this matter. As this is an ongoing civil case legal, we will have no other comment at this point.”

Araiza was a sixth-round pick of the Bills in the 2022 NFL Draft. During the proceedings, eyebrows were raised when two other punters were selected before him.

But Araiza, 22, performed well in training camp for Buffalo and recently beat out holdover Matt Haack for the gig.

San Diego State officials and coach Brady Hoke didn’t immediately comment on Thursday’s suit filing.

The alleged victim, who is now 18, recently told the CBS affiliate in San Diego that she attended a party at the house late on the night of Oct. 16 and was approached by Araiza and was asked to perform oral sex.

She complied and said she was soon having sex with Araiza in the backyard.

She said Araiza guided her into a bedroom where there were at least three other men. She told CBS she was raped for “about an hour and a half” before the party was shut down.

The woman said she reported the rape to the San Diego Police Department on Oct. 18.

Leonard is an offensive lineman on the San Diego State football team. Ewaliko is no longer part of the program.

–Field Level Media

Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell (QB07) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders end Sam Howell’s long wait in draft’s fifth round

Odds were very slim that Sam Howell would hear his name called on the initial day of the NFL draft, but it seemed certain he would be selected on the second.

Instead, it took until Day Three and the first pick of the fifth round for the North Carolina quarterback to be picked. The Washington Commanders ended his long agonizing wait by choosing him with the 144th overall selection.

“I had no expectations coming into the draft,” Howell said. “Obviously everyone wants to be a first-round pick. I just want to get on a good team. I’m super blessed.”

The final four rounds of the draft were held Saturday in Las Vegas and Howell’s plunge was one of the biggest surprises of the festivities.

Most draft prognosticators pegged Howell as a second-round pick. Nobody was forecasting he’d last until the fifth round.

Pitt’s Kenny Pickett was the lone quarterback to go in Thursday’s first round as the No. 20 overall pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

No quarterbacks were tabbed in the second round. Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder went in the third round (No. 74 overall) to the Atlanta Falcons, Liberty’s Malik Willis was chosen 86th by the Tennessee Titans and Matt Corral of Ole Miss was No. 94 by the Carolina Panthers.

Howell wasn’t even the first quarterback drafted on Saturday: Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe went to the New England Patriots in the fourth round (No. 137 overall).

Meanwhile, Howell was in wait-and-see mode while watching the draft in his hometown of Charlotte, N.C., with family and friends. Not an easy situation for someone who set North Carolina records of 10,283 career passing yards and 92 touchdown tosses.

“It was a little stressful, but at the same time I was trusting God,” Howell said. “I was waiting for a call, and I’m so glad it was Washington that called. This is a perfect spot for me. It’s a team I wanted to play for all along, so I’m fired up.”

Howell may not see the field much this season as the Commanders traded for Carson Wentz earlier this offseason.

The Patriots’ pick of Zappe was interesting as the club selected Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 draft.

Zappe spent four college seasons at Houston Baptist before transferring to Western Kentucky. He passed for 5,967 yards, 62 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his one season with the Hilltoppers. The yardage and touchdowns led the nation.

Zappe was Conference USA’s Most Valuable Player but the pinball-type season didn’t overwhelm many NFL scouts. Not that Zappe cares.

“I don’t really worry about the naysayers and the critics,” Zappe said. “The Patriots believe in me. … Those are the people that I’m going to try to prove right.”

It’s not often that a punter gets drafted lower than his reputation but that occurred Saturday when San Diego State’s Matt Araiza went with the first pick of the sixth round to the Buffalo Bills and was just the third punter selected.

Araiza set an NCAA record with a 51.19 average last season and earned the nickname “Punt God” for his booming efforts. He won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter and had six punts of at least 70 yards — including boots of 86 and 81 yards.

Araiza was a unanimous first-team All-American. The only other San Diego State player to sweep the first-team honors was legendary runner Marshall Faulk, who did it in 1992 and 1993.

Penn State’s Jordan Stout was the first punter off the board. He went in the fourth round (No. 130 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens. Three picks later, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose Georgia’s Jake Camarda.

“I’ll have a lot of motivation to dominate this season,” Araiza told Buffalo reporters.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs kicker Matt Araiza (2) punts during the fourth quarter against the San Jose State Spartans at CEFCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego State P Matt Araiza declares for NFL draft

Ray Guy Award winner Matt Araiza of San Diego State announced Tuesday that he is declaring for the NFL draft.

Araiza set a single-season FBS record with a 51.19 punting average this season. The player nicknamed “Punt God” surpassed the mark of Texas A&M’s Braden Mann (50.98 in 2018).

Araiza also handled place-kicking and kickoffs for the Aztecs. But NFL teams will be seeking his powerful left foot primarily as a punter despite the 2021 season being his first in the starting role.

“To the past and present Aztecs I have had the privilege playing with, thank you for everything,” Araiza wrote in his announcement on Twitter. “… With gratitude, I am announcing my decision to declare for the 2022 NFL Draft.”

Araiza will be the rare specialist with a chance to be drafted on the second day when the second and third rounds are held.

Araiza was a unanimous first-team All-American this season. The only other San Diego State player to sweep the first-team honors was legendary runner Marshall Faulk, who did it in 1992 and 1993.

Araiza placed 37 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and had six punts of at least 70 yards — including boots of 86 and 81 yards. The 86-yarder against San Jose State came with San Diego State backed up on its own 11-yard line and Araiza standing in his own end zone to field the snap.

As a kicker, Araiza was 18 of 28 on field goals this season, with a long of 53. He was 3 of 9 from 50 or more yards. Overall, Araiza made 50 of 68 field-goal attempts in three seasons for San Diego State.

In addition, 62 of Araiza’s 73 kickoffs this season went for touchbacks.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young (9) passes against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Young wins Maxwell; Kenneth Walker III nets Camp, Doak Walker

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young won the Maxwell Award, given annually to college football’s player of the year, on Thursday.

A Heisman Trophy finalist, Young also took home the Davey O’Brien Award for the best quarterback in the country. The Heisman will be awarded Saturday in New York.

Young passed for 4,322 yards, 43 touchdowns and four interceptions as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback in 2021. Alabama beat Georgia in the SEC championship game to land the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff.

In that showdown with the then-top-ranked Bulldogs, Young set an SEC title game record with 421 passing yards.

Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III, considered a snub for the short list of Heisman finalists, also collected two awards Thursday. He won the Walter Camp Award for the most outstanding player in college football and the Doak Walker Award for the nation’s top running back.

Walker became the first player to win the Walter Camp Award while not being named a Heisman finalist in the same year.

Walker amassed 1,636 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns with an average of 6.2 yards per carry. He scored five of his touchdowns in the Spartans’ win over playoff-bound Michigan, the Wolverines’ only loss of the year.

Pitt wide receiver Jordan Addison won the Biletnikoff Award for the top wideout in the country. He teamed up with Heisman and Maxwell finalist Kenny Pickett for 17 touchdown catches, which led FBS.

San Diego State punter Matt Araiza won the Ray Guy Award for best punter after a breakout season in which he’s on pace to set an NCAA record for net average per punt (51.3 entering the Aztecs’ bowl game; the record is 50.3).

And Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis earned the Chuck Bednarik Award for defensive player of the year and the Outland Trophy for most outstanding interior lineman.

–Field Level Media