Bills name Team Captains

The Buffalo Bills announced their 2013 Team Captains will be Running Back Fred Jackson,  Defensive Tackle Kyle Williams and Center Eric Wood.

The Bills open their season against the New England Patriots this Sunday afternoon.  Great seats are still available!

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Versatile Levitre Provides Bills’ O-Line Stability

“Let me learn the passing, and I’m sure I can probably run that, too,” the jack-of-all-trades offensive lineman said. “Nah,” Levitre then added with a wink.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t entirely rule out that possibility, by saying: “I think he’d do a better job at quarterback than I would at left tackle.”

Fitzpatrick was joking, and he need not be looking over his shoulder because Levitre’s true value has been the versatility and not-miss-a-beat stability he’s provided in anchoring what’s become a banged-up offensive line.

“It’s hard to shuffle around, but he does a good job with it, and that’s why he’s so valuable,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m sure he’s going to do just fine there at center.”

That’s where Levitre will make his debut as a starter Sunday, when the slumping Bills (5-4) attempt to restore their early-season momentum in traveling to play the Miami Dolphins (2-7). Levitre is making the switch after Buffalo lost Eric Wood to a season-ending knee injury in a 44-7 loss at Dallas last weekend.

It’ll be the latest move for the second of Buffalo’s two second-round 2009 draft picks. After opening the season at left guard, Levitre started the previous three games at left tackle due to injuries to starter Demetrius Bell (shoulder) and his backup, rookie Chris Hairston (ankle).

With Hairston now healthy, Levitre will move into the middle, where he’s had very limited experience. He filled in at center for a few plays last year, and had a short stint making snaps in garbage time of a season-opening 41-7 win at Kansas City.

He’s not worried. And it helps that he’s familiar with playing two other positions, which should make it more comfortable for him to make pre-snap blocking adjustments, which is part of a center’s job.

“I feel like I could adapt,” Levitre said. “You get enough reps in practice and walkthroughs that there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to get it.”

His is a quiet, no-nonsense approach that is the result of a self-confidence borne out of Levitre’s curious path in pursuing a career in football. Levitre’s versatility is not limited to the playing field, because he turned out to be an inventive and persistent self-promoter coming out of high school in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Largely overlooked among college recruiters, Levitre took it upon himself to raise attention. Each day after school, he’d sit in front of two VCRs and make highlight tapes of himself in action to send to Division I schools around the country.

“I was pumping out two or three a day. I’d have an address and give it to my grandpa, and he’d send it out for me,” Levitre recalled. “I figured if I was going to get recruited, that was the only way to do it.”

Of the 100 videotapes he estimates sending out, Levitre got only a few positive responses.

Oregon State was among the first to express interest, which is where he elected to play. Splitting time at right and left tackle at college, Levitre developed into a two-year starter, and was an Associated Press second-team selection following his senior year.

What Levitre never envisioned while making his tapes was a chance of ever playing in the NFL.

“Ultimately, that was my goal, but it wasn’t a huge goal because you’ve got to make the steps in order to get there,” he said. “I was just trying to get a chance to play football somewhere, you know?”

Levitre has not looked back. He’s been the Bills most durable linemen, having not missed a game. And he’s played a significant role in both run- and pass-blocking situations.

Bills running back Fred Jackson leads the NFL in both yards rushing (917) and yards from scrimmage (1,309). Despite its line shuffles, Buffalo has allowed a league-low 10 sacks.

Coach Chan Gailey’s only worry about Levitre playing center is pre-snap communication. Otherwise, Gailey doesn’t have any other concerns.

“Toughness won’t be an issue. Quickness won’t be an issue. Snapping won’t be an issue,” Gailey said. “He’s so valuable because he’s good, and he’s versatile.”

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Bills Forced to Juggle O-Line

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. Andy Levitre knows the rash of injuries along the offensive line isn’t anything to be taken lightly. But he’s aware the sky isn’t falling either.

When the Bills (2-10) host the (5-7) on Sunday, they’ll be sporting a new center and right guard. That’s because center Geoff Hangartner and right guard Kraig Urbik sustained knee injuries in Sunday’s loss at Minnesota.

That’s caused a domino effect. Starting right guard Eric Wood, who returns after missing two games because of an ankle injury, shifts to center, and backups Ed Wang and Cordaro Howard will split right-guard duties.

“There’s definitely a change, but just because someone goes down doesn’t mean everyone’s going to play terrible,” left guard Levitre said Wednesday. “You want to have your best guys on the field, but injuries sometimes hamper that. So it hurts the team as a whole, but it’s not going to ruin everybody’s day. You have to fight through adversity, and we’ve had a lot of that this year.”

Wood isn’t too concerned about sliding to center. He played the position at Louisville, and has kept sharp throughout the season by snapping the ball while the special teams do their drills in practices.

“The first couple of days will be a challenge getting everybody jelling,” Wood said. “We’ll do all right. We’ve got guys that know what they’re doing that are hopping in. I don’t think it’ll be too rough of a transition. There’s some little nuances at that position that are different than any other spot. Starting the play with your hands between your legs is one of them.”

With the revamped line, the Bills may be forced to use more of a short passing game as well as utilize a ground attack led by Fred Jackson.

“We have to try and get on the same page,” Jackson said. “The best thing we can do throughout this week is try to figure each other out. I’ve never been behind (Wood) at center, so it’s going to be one of those things where the more work we can get in this week, the more communication in the film room, and the more we can understand what everyone’s thinking, the better we’ll be.”

“You get to know guys throughout the season and we’re meeting all the time,” said Levitre, who replaced Hangartner vs. the . “It’s not like I’m playing with somebody I never met before, and never talked to. You develop relationships throughout the weeks.”

The Bills had been relatively healthy along their offensive line this season except for right tackle, where they’re on their third starter. The cohesiveness and continuity, though, has now taken a hit that they must be able to absorb and shake off if they want to snap a two-game losing streak following a two-game winning stretch.

“The moving parts up there always makes it tough,” said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was sacked once, hit five times, lost two of three fumbles, and threw an interception against Minnesota. “We have to take advantage of these practices and meeting-room time. It’s all about communication and getting everybody on the same page, and from there hoping we get the job done.”

Notes: Cornerback Terrence McGee returned to practice Wednesday after missing the last two games because of a nerve problem behind his knee. The injury has kept him sidelined for eight games. … Fullback Corey McIntyre missed Wednesday’s practice. … The Bills rank 18th in the league with 24 sacks allowed through 12 games. Last season, they gave up 46 sacks, which tied Washington for fourth-highest allowed in the NFL. … Levitre has started all 28 games since being drafted in the second round in 2009.

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