Sean McDermott

The Buffalo Bills played the Carolina Panthers in a preseason game on Friday night but that was overshadowed by the horrific details surrounding a civil lawsuit made against Bills punter Matt Araiza on Thursday.

On Thursday, a civil lawsuit was filed that accuses three San Diego State football players, including former player Araiza, who is now the Bills punter, of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl at an off-campus party in 2021.

The Bills released a statement on Thursday saying they were aware of the allegations and collecting more information.

Before the Bills-Panthers game, it was reported that Araiza would not punt and wouldn’t even dress. The decision and the situation around it were discussed during the Bills’ TV broadcast as well.

“Certainly, not surprised that there’s gonna go without that punter tonight,” said commentator Steve Tasker, who couldn’t even bring himself to say Araiza’s name. “It’s ongoing and, quite frankly, it’s completely unsavory for all of us. I’m glad the ball is gonna get kicked off right about now.”

Carolina won the game, 21-0, but that was beside the point. Afterward, Bills coach Sean McDermott took to the podium with a clear understanding that he was going to have to discuss the situation and whose decision it was to not let Araiza play.

“Okay. I know there was a game just played, but I want to talk about something that’s more important, which is what we have going on with one of the members of our team right now. With Matt Araiza. It’s an extremely serious… just hard to go through. It’s not a situation that I or we take lightly whatsoever. It’s very serious. I understand the sensitivity of the situation, and it’s clear that we have work to do continue to figure this thing out here. And we’re going to do that.”

When asked if he was satisfied with the way the franchise was handling the situation, he said “we have work to do.”

When asked whose decision it was that Araiza wouldn’t suit up, McDermott said, “it was my decision. And at the end of the day, I didn’t feel like it was right.”

McDermott didn’t want to discuss details around when the Bills were aware of the allegations against Araiza, which appear to have been an open secret around the San Diego State campus. He did, strangely, offer “thoughts and prayers” to “the people involved.”

“I can tell you this: My heart, and my thoughts and prayers, go out to the people involved,” McDermott then said. “And that includes Matt. It includes both sides here. The victim, and everyone involved. Our prayers go out to them.”

There are certainly two ways to view the press conference.

On one hand, you could make the case that McDermott showed more humanity and honesty than anyone involved with the Cleveland Browns and Deshaun Watson situation. While he certainly deflected some questions, he also seemed to be genuinely affected by the details in that lawsuit and what they could mean about Araiza.

On the other hand, throwing out “thoughts and prayers” to people on “both sides” of a rape accusation reads tone deaf. The fact that Araiza is still traveling with the team is a statement all its own, and any minimization of the accusations against him is a bad look right now, even if we come to learn different details in the days ahead.

The reactions from around the NFL world to McDermott’s presser certainly ran the gamut between those two readings.

It certainly sounds like the Bills are mulling over what to do with Araiza, who is currently the only punter on the team and their No. 1 holder on field goals. But sometimes, there are more important things to worry about.

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.