Talk radio is often the best way to take the temperature on how sports fans are feeling at the moment. In Buffalo, there’s precious little support for the Bills keeping rookie punter Matt Araiza, accused of participating in a gang rape of a 17-year-old girl last year when he was attending San Diego State. On Saturday, the Bills released Araiza.
Is a punter a big deal to the Bills?
Well, every team needs one, but this isn’t like a quarterback. Particularly in Buffalo, where the Bills have such a high-powered offense that they punted two times or fewer in seven games last season. In three of four games at the end of the season, they didn’t punt at all. Not once. So that’s a lonely job in Buffalo. This team is all about star quarterback Josh Allen.
Why did they get rid of the last punter?
They weren’t enamored of the job Matt Haack did last season, although he was a good holder for strong-legged kicker Tyler Bass. So Haack kept his job. The Bills were looking for an upgrade, and they drafted Araiza out of San Diego State. Fans loved his “Punt God” moniker and thought he’d only bolster a Super Bowl contender.
How has Araiza done on the field so far?
He punted once, in a preseason game against Indianapolis, and it was a thundering effort. It carried a jaw-dropping 82 yards and into the end zone, counting as a net of 62. No one blinked when the Bills released Haack, who went on to sign with the Colts.
Was Araiza a big investment?
He was a sixth-round pick and the third punter off the board last spring, signing a four-year agreement worth $3.88 million. Those deals aren’t guaranteed, but he did receive a $216,000 signing bonus. In the NFL, that’s pocket change.
So what is the sentiment on Buffalo talk radio?
Jeremy White, a morning show host on WGR, said the majority of people who have called about Araiza want the Bills to let him go.
“I wouldn’t say that there’s no support for him, but the sides are mostly, `Get him out of here. The story is enough. Believe women…’ ” White said. “The only other side of it is, `I want to know what the Bills know. If it’s all so bad, why is he still here?’ There’s almost a little bit of the Bills getting the benefit of the doubt from some of their fans. … `Do they know something that we don’t yet?’ ”
Will the NFL investigate this?
Wouldn’t entirely rule that out. But the collective bargaining agreement dictates that a player is not subject to the league’s personal conduct policy before he’s drafted. So it would not merit an NFL investigation. That said, if this case were part of an ongoing criminal prosecution — it’s currently a civil case — that could change the calculus.