Home Personal Injuries Bills reverse course, cut punter Matt Araiza after gang-rape lawsuit

Bills reverse course, cut punter Matt Araiza after gang-rape lawsuit

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Araiza’s release begins to ease a crisis which has shaken the team, as reflected by coach Sean McDermott having difficulty containing his emotions while discussing the situation following a 21-0 preseason loss at Carolina on Friday night.

Without being specific, McDermott said he was unaware of some of the revelations that came out once the lawsuit was filed a day earlier, and repeatedly said the team has work to do to get to the truth.

“It’s not a situation we take lightly. I’m hurt, I understand they’re hurt,” McDermott said referring to Buffalo’s fanbase. “It’s not easy to hear about some of the things that I’ve heard about over the last several hours say. Haven’t slept a lot to be honest with you.”

McDermott made the call to hold out Araiza from playing against Carolina. The player watched the game from an undisclosed location while also issuing a statement through his agent, Joe Linta, which read: “The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press. I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”

A lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court accused Araiza and two teammates of raping a then-17-year-old girl at a Halloween party at an off-campus home where Araiza had been living. A San Diego police investigation has been turned over to the district attorney’s office to determine whether to pursue charges. DA spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said Friday there was no timeline as to how long a decision will take.

Though he was college football’s top punter last year, Araiza was the third punter selected in the draft. It’s unclear whether Araiza informed the NFL about the allegations in the months leading up to the draft.

Executives from two different teams told The Associated Press they became aware of Araiza’s involvement in an incident during the draft process, but neither person knew the extent of the allegations. Executives from three other teams said they had no knowledge of the allegations against Araiza before the draft and only learned of the incident Thursday.

Tom Brady makes preseason cameo

Tom Brady led Tampa Bay to a field goal on his first and only series of the preseason and the Indianapolis Colts backups rallied to beat the Buccaneers, 27-10, in Indianapolis.

Brady looked sharp in the hurry-up offense, going 6 of 8 with 44 yards while converting one fourth down on an 11-play, 66-yard drive.

The seven-time Super Bowl champ, Mike Evans, Julio Jones, and most of the Buccaneers’ other starters then watched the rest of the game from the bench. Brady returned to the practice field Monday after missing the previous 11 days of training camp for personal reasons.

Matt Ryan and the Colts starters also played about one quarter.

Panthers’ Zane Gonzalez, Sam Darnold sustain ‘significant’ injuries

Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule said backup quarterback Sam Darnold and kicker Zane Gonzalez both suffered “significant” injuries in the 21-0 win over the Buffalo Bills on Friday night.

Darnold has a high ankle sprain, which is normally a four-to-six week injury. But Rhule said doctors haven’t determined how much time he’ll miss, adding that putting him on short-term injured reserve is a possibility.

The Panthers will enter the season with Baker Mayfield as their starter and P.J. Walker as his backup.

“We’re not sure of the exact length of that injury,” Rhule said Saturday on a videoconference call. “We sent those images to a specialist to gauge it, but it does look like a significant injury that could take some time.”

Gonzalez’s injury appears even worse, and there is a possibility it could be season-ending. He will see a specialist to determine the degree of injury.

Rhule wouldn’t specify what Gonzalez did to his groin while practicing kicks into the net on the sideline. But he said the Panthers will be looking to sign a kicker before the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns.

Gonzalez finished last season 20 of 22 on field goals after joining the Panthers in Week 2 of the regular season and making 22 of 23 extra points. The Panthers re-signed Gonzalez to a two-year, $4.5 million contract after he made his final 17 field goals last season.

Geno Smith gets starting nod for Seahawks

Geno Smith is the choice as the first replacement for Russell Wilson at quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, coach Pete Carroll announced after Friday’s 27-26 preseason loss to the Cowboys.

A rough night from Drew Lock, which included three interceptions and no touchdowns, wasn’t the deciding factor. Smith played one series. Playing into the fourth quarter, Lock finished 13 of 24 for 171 yards and a 51.2 passer rating.

“Geno, he knows our stuff and he does really well and he understands it and he commands everything that we’re doing,” Carroll said. “He’ll give us the best chance to play great football right off the bat.”

The Seahawks are entering a new era after trading the Super Bowl winner and 10-year starter Wilson to Denver, where Lock started 21 games over the previous three seasons.

Lock saw plenty of playing time after missing the second preseason game because of COVID-19. Carroll said it would be a “makeup deal,” but Smith had already done plenty to make the Seahawks think he was the choice.

“This is just step one in the process, but it’s really about winning,” said Smith, who was Wilson’s backup after starting most of his first two years in the NFL with the New York Jets and has 34 starts in 45 games over eight seasons. “None of this will matter if we don’t go out and win the games we’re supposed to win.”

“As a competitor, you’re always disappointed, and I was disappointed,” Lock said about Carroll’s decision. “You want to be able to step on the field and show that you can do it. Now, it’s my job to have his back. Be the best teammate I can be.”

Andover’s EJ Perry goes distance in Jaguars’ loss

Desmond Ridder shook off an interception on his very first throw to lead the Atlanta Falcons to their first home preseason win since 2016, beating Jacksonville, 28-12. Both teams relied mainly on backups and roster wannabes in their preseason finale, with the Falcons (2-1) prevailing behind their third-round draft pick out of Cincinnati. Playing into the fourth quarter, Ridder completed 14 of 25 passes for 185 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown throw to fellow rookie Tyler Allgeier in the first quarter. Andover’s EJ Perry went the distance at quarterback for the Jaguars (0-4). He completed 19 of 27 for 201 yards, with a pair of interceptions. Perry hooked up with Laquon Treadwell on a 7-yard pass with 12 seconds left in the first half to cut Atlanta’s lead to 14-12 . . . Tua Tagovailoa connected with Tyreek Hill for 51 yards on the first play from scrimmage, and the Miami Dolphins set a franchise record for points in a preseason game, beating the Philadelphia Eagles, 48-10. Tagovailoa played the entire first quarter, looking more comfortable in first-year coach Mike McDaniel’s system. He finished 6 of 7 for 121 yards and a touchdown in three series. The franchise, however, suffered a major loss earlier in the day. Jason Jenkins, who spent nearly 14 years with the Dolphins and eventually became the team’s senior vice president of communications, died unexpectedly Saturday. He was 47. The Houston native is survived by his wife and three children, and tributes poured in from around the NFL . . . Anthony Brown threw for 256 yards and a touchdown, and the Baltimore Ravens extended their record preseason winning streak to 23 games with a 17-15 victory over the Washington Commanders. The Commanders pulled within two with 5:31 remaining when Sam Howell threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Bonnafon. A 2-point conversion pass was incomplete, helping preserve the streak, but Baltimore defensive back Kevon Seymour injured an ankle on the play. Teammate Zakoby McClain appeared to fall on Seymour’s right leg. It wasn’t the team’s only notable injury: Poe, Baltimore’s mascot, was carted off at halftime after going down during an exhibition game of mascots against a local youth team. Poe was lying on the ground when the cart came out and he was lifted onto it and driven off . . . Two days after the teams were involved in a benches-clearing brawl at a joint practice during which Rams star Aaron Donald swung a helmet, Cincinnati beat Los Angeles, 16-7, in a preseason game contested mostly by backups that passed without incident. Jake Browning came off the bench to go 19 of 24 for 173 yards and a touchdown . . . The Green Bay Packers remain unsure about the status of their top two offensive linemen for their Sept. 11 season opener against the Vikings. David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins were both removed from the physically unable to perform list over the past two weeks as they recover from knee injuries. Packers coach Matt LaFleur said “we have no idea” whether either will play at Minnesota. Bakhtiari has played in only one game since tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 31, 2020. He returned for the Packers’ 2021 regular-season finale, but had a setback and wasn’t available for their NFC divisional playoff loss to the 49ers. Jenkins hasn’t played since tearing his left ACL on Nov. 21 at Minnesota. Bakhtiari was an All-Pro left tackle in 2018 and 2020. Jenkins, a Pro Bowl guard in 2020, filled in for Bakhtiari at left tackle last season before suffering his own injury.

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