The allegations against former Bills punter Matt Araiza resulted in both a criminal investigation and a civil lawsuit. Now that an account has emerged regarding the assessment of the evidence by prosecutors, Araiza has expressed gratitude for the manner in which the facts have come out.
“I am aware that the facts of this case have been made public,” Araiza said in a statement provided to PFT on Tuesday night. “I am deeply gratified for the thorough work of the DA’s office in San Diego and for all the witnesses that were willing to come forward and tell the truth. I am thankful that the facts of this case as provided by the witnesses will prove that what I have been saying from the beginning is, in fact, the truth.
“I can only hope that now people will assess me on the facts and not what was falsely claimed in both the civil suit and in the press.
“I am beyond thankful for the unwavering support of both my family and friends. They have been a rock in what has been a very dark eight months for me. However, now that the truth is out, I am amazed by the thousands of emails and tweets supporting me. It has truly been a blessing to know so many people have now judged me by the facts.”
The announcement that Araiza would not face criminal charges first was made in December. Recent reporting has helped explain the decision, via a conclusion by prosecutors that Araiza was not present at the time an alleged gang rape occurred.
He remains a free agent, eligible to sign with any team. Regardless of any potential civil liability, Araiza would face no punishment under the Personal Conduct Policy for alleged behavior occurring before he was drafted by the Bills last April.
The question now becomes whether the exoneration of Araiza on criminal charges, and the recent publication of the specific facts supporting the decision, will result in a team offering him a roster spot or, at a minimum, a tryout.
When the Bills released him last August, G.M. Brandon Beane said, “At this time, we think it’s the best move for everyone to move on from Matt and let him take care of this situation and focus on that.”
With the situation resolved, as far as the criminal justice system is concerned, there is no impediment to the Bills or anyone else welcoming him back to the NFL — but for the civil case. Again, any potential outcome of the civil litigation would not impact his eligibility to hold an NFL roster spot or to play in NFL games.
Although the circumstances are very different, Araiza’s legal situation is no different than Eagles defensive tackle Jalen Carter‘s. Both face potential civil liability, but no actual punishment from the league.
Ultimately, that didn’t keep Carter from becoming the ninth overall pick in the 2023 draft.