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Chiefs sign punter Matt Araiza after he was cleared of gang-rape allegation

Matt Araiza
Posted at 3:43 PM, Feb 22, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Matt Araiza’s second shot at an NFL career will be with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Araiza, 23, a sixth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 2022 NFL Draft, saw his career derailed before it started in August 2022 when his name surfaced in a civil lawsuit regarding an alleged gang rape of a 17-year-old girl in Southern California.

The lawsuit also named some of Araiza’s former Aztecs teammates, though he ultimately was cleared of any involvement in the alleged incident.

San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Trisha Amador said Araiza “wasn’t even at the party anymore” in an interview last month, according to Yahoo Sports.

Araiza also was not identified in any video recordings of the alleged sexual assault. He was never charged with a crime and was dropped from the civil suit, which remains ongoing.

The Bills reportedly found out about the lawsuit in July 2022 — so after he was drafted, but didn’t part ways until after the lawsuit became public, according to The Athletic’s Tim Graham.

Now, Araiza gets a second chance with the two-time reigning Super Bowl champions.

“I am proud and honored to sign a contract with the @Chiefs,” Araiza said in a statement released Thursday by his agents, JL Sports, via social media. “I am thrilled to be able to continue my NFL career. I want to thank my family, who have been my rock and my many friends who have been unwavering in their support. I am excited to begin the next phase of my career with the Super Bowl Champs!”

JL Sports also released a statement about the signing: “We are proud to announce that our client @matt_araiza has signed with the @Chiefs. We are grateful to Brett Veach, coach (Andy) Reid and the @Chiefs organization for giving Matt this opportunity. Matt has been to hell and back in the last 18 months. He has handled himself with grace and humility that is truly inspiring. Matt can now move forward knowing that this ordeal is behind him. He is thrilled to move forward as a part of the #ChiefsKingdom.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter initially reported the signing shortly after 2 p.m. on Thursday, one minute before JL Sports’ announcement also hit social media.

Araiza became a sensation in college, earning the nickname “Punt God” as he broke the NCAA single-season record for punting average in 2021 with San Diego State (51.2 yards per punt).

He was a unanimous All-American and won the Ray Guy Award as college football’s top punter in 2021 — when he uncorked 18 punts of at least 60 yards, including two punts of 80-plus yards.

Araiza showed up his unmatched punting power during the 2022 preseason before he was cut by Buffalo with an 82-yard punt.

The Chiefs have a need at punter with Tommy Townsend set to become a free agent.

Townsend, 27, came to Kansas City in 2020 as an undrafted free agent and has been the Chiefs’ punter for the last four seasons. He was a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection in 2022 after averaging 50.4 yards per punt with a 45.6-yard net average.

That production dipped to 47.1 gross yards and 41.9 net yards in 2023, when Townsend played on a one-year contract worth $2.6 million.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid has established a reputation for giving players second chances, including signing Michael Vick after he was released from federal prison on dogfighting charges among other examples.