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Bills look to Levitre to fill in at left tackle

The Buffalo Bills are likely to have their third starter of the season at left tackle Sunday against the Washington Redskins in Toronto.

Normal left guard Andy Levitre worked at the position in practice Monday as the Bills returned from their bye week.

"That's probably going to be the way it ends up for game time," coach Chan Gailey said, indicating the Bills aren't counting on having Demetrius Bell available.

"It's going to be close," Gailey said. "We're planning on him not [being available]. If we get him, it's great."

Bell has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury that has become a bigger issue than it was initially thought to be. If he can't play Sunday, he'll have missed more than a month.

The problem at left tackle was compounded in the Bills' last game when rookie Chris Hairston suffered a high ankle sprain that will sideline him Sunday.

That leaves Levitre, Buffalo's jack-of-all-trades on the offensive line. The third-year veteran from Oregon State practiced at all three offensive line positions during training camp. He's the team's backup center, played left tackle in college and has started the first 38 games of his professional career, mostly at left guard. That follows a streak of 35 straight starts in college, so he's proven to be durable.

"He's athletic. He's smart. He's tough. Usually when you've got those types of guys they can play anywhere," said center Eric Wood, who came into the league with Levitre in 2009. "Andy's done a good job of moving around his whole career, and we've got a lot of confidence in him being able to do that."

Levitre has played particularly well in the Bills' four victories. A couple of plays highlight his diverse skill set:

Against the Raiders in Week Two, he had a perfect shield block against Pro Bowl defensive tackle Richard Seymour, springing Fred Jackson for a 34-yard gain in the first quarter.

Against the Eagles in Week Five, Levitre sprinted out ahead of Jackson on a screen pass, executing a perfect cut block on Asante Samuel, leading to a 49-yard gain in the second quarter.

Levitre's challenge Sunday will be to get familiar quickly with the different stance playing tackle requires. He'll face more speed rushers off the edge and must adjust his footwork. Those practice reps he got in training camp were beneficial, but they were also a long time ago.

"It's going to be a huge week [of practice] for me," he said.

The Redskins enter the game tied for the NFL lead in sacks, with 21. Buffalo has faced three straight NFC East teams, and going into each game, the opponent has led the NFL in sacks.

"That's crazy," Levitre said, laughing. "It's a challenge every week."

email: jskurski@buffnews.com

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