Buffalo Bills guard Andy Levitre has the same conditioning routine every week of the NFL season. ¶ He takes a 12-minute soak in a 38-degree ice bath once a day, sometimes twice, from Monday-Saturday. He gets a massage once a week, either Monday or Tuesday. He is diligent about getting treatment for bumps and bruises in the trainer’s room. ¶ It’s nothing out of the ordinary by NFL standards, but it produces uncommon results for Levitre. ¶ The Bills’ left guard has started every game of his four-year NFL career. Sunday’s meeting with the St. Louis Rams will be his 61st straight start. ¶ What’s more, Levitre hasn’t missed a single offensive snap since Week Two of the 2010 season. That’s 42 straight games and 2,574 straight plays. ¶ “It’s always a good
trait to have as a player,” Levitre said. “Obviously the coaches want to have you out there as a player as much as you can be out there. Being as lucky as I have been to not be injured, it kinda adds to my value.”
The Bills are particularly thankful for Levitre’s durability this week, because the offensive line is in flux. Center Eric Wood and right tackle Chris Hairston are out. Making their first NFL starts in their places will be David Snow and Sam Young, respectively.
Levitre rolls on.
“It’s amazing,” Bills coach Chan Gailey. “At that position, that trait is really almost unheard of these days. For our continuity up front and his versatility on top of that, it’s really a valuable commodity for us. He’s played extremely well and we’re fortunate to have him.”
“We’ve asked him to do a lot and he always steps up,” said center Eric Wood. “That’s what you want from an offensive lineman - consistency.”
Consistency is Levitre’s trademark. He’s one of the most technique- and assignment-sound players on the team. He’s a mobile athlete who pass-protects exceptionally well. His good feet allow him to get to the second level of the defense in the run game and disrupt linebackers. He’s an asset to the Bills’ quality screen-pass game, because he’s so good at getting a piece of defenders in space.
At 6-foot-2, 305 pounds, Levitre does not have the burly size or long arms of some of the NFL’s elite guards. He’s not a road-grading mauler in the run game like Tampa Pro Bowler Carl Nicks.
Levitre was well tutored to play with good leverage in college by Oregon State line coach Mike Cavanaugh.
“I’ve always taken flexibility pretty seriously,” Levitre said. “I think being flexible helps me get out in open spaces and be able to react to guys in the open field. Also going through college, my O-line coach preached a lot about technique, so that’s something I’ve always strived to get better at. It’s something I always want to strive to get better at to get better at my craft.”
Levitre grades out ninth among NFL guards this season, according to the ranking of Profootballfocus.com. He ranked sixth last season. The Bills rank fourth in yards per rush and 11th in sacks allowed per pass attempt, two relative markers of offensive line performance.
“I feel like I’ve been pretty effective this year but not dominant the way I strive to be,” Levitre said.
“Andy leads the pack when it comes to bringing levity to the room,” Wood said of the offensive line group. “He doesn’t take himself too seriously. That’s just his nature. Maybe it’s coming from a California background, but before a game you’re never going to see him bashing his head against something. He’s even-keeled and that says a lot about the way he’s played - he’s consistent.”
Levitre has set himself up for a big payday after the season. His contract is up. He says there’s nothing to report on contract talks.
“I’d love to stay here,” Levitre said. “It’s a great place. I love the staff. I love the people here in Buffalo. I’ve had a great time since I’ve been here. As of right now, there really hasn’t been anything going on. My focus right now is to finish the season as best I can and let the chips fall where they may.”
“Mr. Reliable,” Andy Levitre, has the most consecutive starts – 60 – of any current Bill. Next in line are Jairus Byrd with 43; Stevie Johnson with 39, and Ryan Fitzpatrick and Nick Barnett, both with 28. The Bills play the Rams at Ralph Wilson Stadium with kickoff at 1 p.m. Sunday. TV: Ch. 29, Radio: 550 AM Latest line: Bills (-3)