Bills G Levitre wonders if time's up in Buffalo
(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.)
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Through rain, snow, heat and losing seasons, whether he's played guard, center or tackle, Andy Levitre has never missed a game -- let alone a start -- during his four years with the Buffalo Bills
He will make it 64 straight on Sunday, when the Bills close their season against the New York Jets.
What Levitre isn't sure of is whether it will be his final one with Buffalo with his contract set to expire.
"Yeah, I don't know," Levitre said Wednesday. "I don't know if it's going to be here. I don't know if it's going to be somewhere else. But right now, I'm focused on trying to beat the Jets and we'll kind of see where it goes from there."
The game is meaningless for the Bills (5-10) and Jets (6-9), who are out of playoff contention.
Just don't downplay its importance to Levitre, who's trying to avoid thinking about what it will be like leaving the field once time runs out.
"Every time that gets brought up, I kind of just try to push it away," Levitre said. "Maybe that's something I'll think about on Monday, like, `Wow, maybe that was my last time."
Levitre would prefer to continue playing in Buffalo. The trouble is, he's unsure where the Bills stand regarding his future.
Though the team's expressed an interest in re-signing him, Levitre scratches his head in saying the front office has yet to follow through by formally making him any offers.
Safety Jairus Byrd is in the same boat with the 2010 second-round draft pick's contract set to expire. The Bills haven't yet opened contract talks. Byrd is open to re-signing with the team, and has yet to determine whether he will test free agency.
Byrd is having a solid season in leading the team with five interceptions and four forced fumbles.
General manager Buddy Nix has declined to comment, citing the team policy of not discussing the status of contract talks.
Levitre's value has certainly risen in having established himself as one of the franchise's most durable, dependable and versatile offensive linemen.
Though a majority of his starts have come at right guard, he's filled in at tackle and center as a result of injuries.
"He's a guy that we lean on a lot," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "Andy is a guy that we depend on every Sunday, and a guy that has been extremely reliable throughout his career."
Coach Chan Gailey refers to Levitre as the team's "Steady Eddie."
"He's been solid," Gailey said. "He's been one of the pleasant things on offense as far as consistency goes."
Levitre is the team's first offensive lineman to start at least 63 games since Ruben Brown enjoyed a 71-game streak from 1999 through 2003.
Bills center Eric Wood was a first-round pick in 2009 and, by comparison, has made 46 starts while twice finishing seasons on injured reserve.
Wood, who has one year left on his contract, has spent much of the season lobbying Levitre to re-sign with the Bills.
"Obviously, I want him to come back here. We have a great chemistry on the line," said Wood, who shares the same agent as Levitre. "But you know, Andy's done everything he could to maximize his earning power at this point. And after this year, he's going to have to do what's best for him."
Wood and Levitre have helped bring stability to the Bills line. It's a unit that allowed 23 sacks last year -- the third-fewest in Buffalo in a 16-game season. This year, Buffalo's allowed just 30 sacks and has the NFL's sixth-best running attack.
Levitre is proud with what he's helped accomplish with the Bills. And for someone who grew up in Northern California and played at Oregon State, he's come to enjoy living in Buffalo.
The cold winters certainly don't bother him. Levitre joked there are days he'll go out in the snow wearing shorts and sandals.
"I really do want to stay. I think it's great here," Levitre said. "I love the city. The people here are awesome. Great football town. There's nothing more you can ask for except for winning. That's the only thing I can ask for. But we've got to earn that."
NOTES: The Bills signed TE Derek Buttles to their practice squad and released OT J.B. Shugarts. ... WR Ruvell Martin has been excused for personal reasons for the next few days, but is expected to play Sunday. ... WR Marcus Easley practiced on a limited basis after missing last week's game with a hamstring injury.
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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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