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Bell ready to make last stand

Posted Aug 25, 2011

He was appointed the starting left tackle in 2009 with a week to prepare to face the New England Patriots in the wake of a myriad of major offensive changes leading up to that regular season. He fought through offseason microfracture surgery to start all 16 games for the Bills in 2010, but now Demetrius Bell faces the most important game of his career. Saturday’s preseason game against Jacksonville will likely determine whether he keeps his starting job at left tackle or is replaced.

Earlier this week, Bell began splitting snaps with linemate Andy Levitre at the starting left tackle spot after head coach Chan Gailey made it clear that Bell’s game wasn’t where he felt it should be following the Denver preseason game.

“Consistency,” said Gailey when asked specifically about Bell’s game. “That’s the bottom line. You have to be consistent up front. You don’t have to be great or perfect, but you have to be consistent. We’ve got to make sure we get the guys that can be consistent for us up there.”

The rotation at left tackle has certainly been a wake-up call for Bell, who was taken aback by the new arrangement.

“It came as a shock, but that’s the nature of the business,” said Bell. “You have to understand that. I just have to come out here and keep getting better.”

Bell has worked to do just that, spending extra time after practice to work on his pass sets and his drive blocking.

“I’m not where I want to be, but I’m getting there so I’ve just got to keep working toward it,” said Bell. “Keep working on my run blocking, my pass blocking and working on my technique.”

Knowing what’s at stake one would expect Bell to play like his hair is on fire Saturday night against Jacksonville, but that has never been Bell’s approach to the game. He believes a focused and concentrated approach helps him play his best.

“I’ve just got to go out there and play my game and let everything take care of itself,” he said.

Gailey has said it has not yet been determined who will start the game against Jacksonville on Saturday night at left tackle.

Bell maintains that his confidence is unaffected by what has unfolded during the practice week. As much as the lineman has accepted the fact that it is a business, there’s no denying he has a strong working relationship with the player he’s competing with for the starting job.

Bell and Levitre have worked together on the left side of Buffalo’s offensive line for the past two seasons at left tackle and left guard respectively. Now they’re pitted against one another, making for an awkward situation.

“I really haven’t talked to Andy,” said Bell. “It’s football, people come and people go. I think we’ve just got to be pros and whatever decision is made we just take and live with it.”

For Levitre the stakes aren’t as high. Even if he doesn’t land the left tackle job, he’ll still be a starter at left guard according to Gailey. For Bell it’s the difference between starting and being a reserve player.

But the former seventh-round pick isn’t going to let what’s riding on Saturday’s game drag him down. Bell is hoping he can rise to the occasion.

“This is football man. It is what it is,” he said. “After Saturday whatever is going to happen is going to happen. I can’t hang my hat on that. I’ve got to hang my hat on (practice Thursday) and (Friday) and let Saturday take care of itself. And Sunday I’ve just got to take whatever decisions are made in stride.”