AP: G Andy Levitre reliable for Bills offense


ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Through rain, snow, heat and losing seasons, whether it's playing 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 now that his contract is 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 contest is one between a pair of teams out of playoff contention, as the Bills (5-10) and Jets (6-9) square off from Orchard Park.

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, and the team has expressed an interest in re-signing him.

Safety Jairus Byrd is in the same boat with the 2010 second-round draft pick's contract set to expire. 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 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.

As for members of Levitre's 2009 draft class, only three other players have started all 63 games: Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis, Browns center Alex Mack and Ravens tackle Michael Oher.

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."

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