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Update on Bills' Intriguing Punting Battle

Nothing has been decided as incumbent Matt Haack takes on rookie Matt Araiza.
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One thing new Buffalo Bills special teams coordinator Matthew Smiley wanted to make clear last week about the highly documented battle for the punting job is that competition exists for all roster spots, regardless of the current construction.

"I try to remind the guys, whether it's punter or any position, even if you're the only guy at your position, that doesn't mean there's not competition at that position," Smiley said. "There are obviously 31 other teams that may have doubles at spots. And as rosters start to get pared down, as different guys free up, there may be a guy on the street that you're competing with that you don't know about. ... There is there is a need to feel that type of competition at every spot."

That said, fans and media alike are paying particular attention to the two Matts, Haack and Araiza, who are vying for the one precious punting job, which should make for some outstanding theater this summer.

No leader has emerged, according to Smiley.

"Right now, Matt and Matt are getting even reps," he said. "They are both doing a great job."

Haack, the incumbent, has the advantage that comes with five years of experience in the NFL and a proven holder who helped Bills kicker Tyler Bass make good on all 51 extra-point attempts and 28 of 32 field-goal attempts last season. Araiza is a rookie who comes with a leg that appears to be stronger, based on his legendary punts for San Diego State, earning him the nickname The Punt God.

Interestingly, both are left-footed and neither have really distinguished themselves in nasty weather — a prerequisite for any kind of lasting success with the Bills.

Aaraiza comes from an area of the country where it doesn't even rain, much less snow. Haack finished with a career-low average of 42.9 yards per punt in his one season with the Bills last year after spending his first four seasons with the Miami Dolphins.

Araiza could have another advantage because he also served as the Aztecs' placekicker, making 96 of 97 extra points and 50 of 68 field-goal attempts in his three seasons. He actually didn't become their full-time punter until his final season, when he averaged 51.2 yards.

One more thing: He certainly has done a lot to endear himself to the staff, skipping his college graduation to attend rookie minicamp, despite being given the option to take off by the team.

His dedication to transitioning to the NFL has not gone unnoticed.

"I got a chance to watch Matt arise a couple times and got to talk with him during the process," Smiley said. "He does not have as much experience in college as a punter, but he has a natural gift with a strong left leg. The thing that was most interesting to me, most encouraging to me, was his mindset of that constant improvement. So what I [saw] in the season, how I saw him change that going into the Combine in Indy, how I even saw that get better before he did his Pro Days out west — it was that that constant improvement, that mindset, that was very attractive."

What Smiley doesn't believe will work to Araiza's advantage is his experience as a kicker necessarily making him a better holder.

"Not as much as I'd like to pretend it would, for sure," Smiley said.

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Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to