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Urbik aims to be a force for the Bills; Lions' standout Suh presents guard's next big challenge

Kraig Urbik wasn't sure exactly what transpired because it happened in a flash. One day he was a second-year guard trying to find his way with the Steelers, and the next he was trying to find a job. And before he had time to digest his exit from Pittsburgh, he was making his NFL debut in Buffalo -- for Buffalo.

The whys and hows no longer matter. The important thing to Urbik was that he landed in a very good place in order to advance his career. The Bills gave him the opportunity of a lifetime when he appeared in his first NFL game, and now they want him to settle into place as their starting right guard leading into the season opener.

That's what matters now.

"I haven't been thinking much about the big picture," Urbik said after 90-minute workout at the Bills' practice facility. "In the NFL, it's week to week. It's day to day. You can't focus on the other stuff until after the season. It hasn't even hit me yet, and I haven't even thought about it all during camp."

Urbik can expect his bigger role to hit him upside the head about 7 p.m. Thursday.

The Bills will wrap up their preseason against the Detroit Lions, and Urbik will be lined up across one of the NFL's best defensive tackles in former Nebraska star Ndamukong Suh. His name suggests he's part King Kong, part Tsunami, and the destruction he left behind last season supports the argument.

"I'm going to go out there and prove I can be a starter for this team," Urbik said. "It's definitely going to be a good challenge. I played against the Steelers in my first [start] and then we go against the Vikings, who [had] two of the best D-tackles in the game [Pat Williams and Kevin Williams]. I've definitely had some challenges."

Suh, selected second overall in 2010, had 66 tackles and 10 sacks and was named Defensive Rookie of the Year. He became the first Lions rookie chosen for the Pro Bowl since running back Barry Sanders in 1990. Suh is viewed as the next James Harrison, who pounded a few lessons into Urbik's head, quite literally, in Pittsburgh.

"[Urbik] is a good ballplayer," center Eric Wood said. "We've noticed since the day he got here that he's talented. He's developed as a player. He fits into this O-line well. He's a big body that can move and he really likes to be physical."

Urbik was a four-year starter at Wisconsin who was one of Pittsburgh's three third-round picks in the 2009 draft. He spent one season with the Steelers, never played a regular-season down for them and was waived a week before the 2010 opener. The Bills, forever on the look out for offensive linemen, grabbed him.

In case you haven't heard, the O-line has been their most unstable unit and is considered by most to be their biggest flaw going into the regular season. The reshuffling actually began with Urbik, whose arrival caused Wood to move back to his natural position and pushed veteran Geoff Hangartner into a reserve role.

Urbik is 6-foot-5, 329 pounds, dimensions that satisfy coach Chan Gailey's desire for more beef up front. He appeared in 10 games with the Bills last season, the final two as a starter. He made his first start against Pittsburgh and was inserted at center against Minnesota, but his play was mostly overlooked amid a myriad of other problems.

"He did a nice job [last season]," offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris said recently. "He's a good young talent who's a big guy, who can be a brawler inside. He's a massive body. We've got to get that big massive body to be physical."

Gailey obviously was impressed enough to play him over Hangartner, who is smaller at 6-5, 297. Barring an injury, change of mind or total disaster, Urbik will open the season against Kansas City as an NFL starter. His play in the first few games could determine how long he stays there.

He didn't play particularly well in a sloppy preseason opener against the Bears, but he was better in the two exhibitions that followed. The Bills' starting offensive line was very effective overall Saturday against Jacksonville, a major reason Buffalo rolled up 236 yards from scrimmage in the first half.

The next big test comes Thursday. The season opener is Sept. 11. Urbik is starting to realize he's a starting offensive lineman in the NFL. He's ready to turn the opportunity into a career.

"I was nervous for my first couple of starts last year," he said. "This year, it was more anxious than nervous. You just want to get out there and hit somebody. I'm starting to calm down a little bit. You know where you are and know you can make it."

email: bgleason@buffnews.com