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Bills G Levitre wonders if time's up in Buffalo

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Bills G Levitre wonders if time's up in Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Through rain, snow, heat and losing seasons, whether he's played 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 with his contract 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 game is meaningless for the Bills (5-10) and Jets (6-9), who are out of playoff contention.

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. The trouble is, he's unsure where the Bills stand regarding his future.

Though the team's expressed an interest in re-signing him, Levitre scratches his head in saying the front office has yet to follow through by formally making him any offers.

Safety Jairus Byrd is in the same boat with the 2010 second-round draft pick's contract set to expire. The Bills haven't yet opened contract talks. 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 to 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.''

NOTES: The Bills signed TE Derek Buttles to their practice squad and released OT J.B. Shugarts. ... WR Ruvell Martin has been excused for personal reasons for the next few days, but is expected to play Sunday. ... WR Marcus Easley practiced on a limited basis after missing last week's game with a hamstring injury.

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5 players Ravens fans should keep an eye on at the NFL Combine

5 players Ravens fans should keep an eye on at the NFL Combine

For a team that finished 14-2 in 2019, the Ravens have quite a few holes to patch up across the roster. 

The team needs an edge rusher — a situation that could be exacerbated by a potential departure of Matthew Judon — and help at inside linebacker, interior offensive line and wide receiver.

Baltimore isn’t flush with cap space, especially if Judon is retained by either a contract extension or franchise tag. Meaning, they’ll have to capitalize on their draft picks, of which they have six — with compensatory picks still to be announced. 

The combine schedule will have tight ends, quarterbacks and wide receivers workout on Thursday, special teamers, offensive line and running backs on Friday, defensive line and linebackers on Saturday and defensive backs on Sunday. 

Here are a few players who the Ravens could take a look at near the top of the draft:

Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

This is the linebacker that the Ravens might have to make a move to acquire. 

Patrick Queen, an off-ball linebacker from LSU, is listed at 6-foot-1 and 227 pounds. He made 85 total tackles in his junior season as a Tiger and had one interception, too. 

“Patrick Queen to me would be a home run pick from LSU if somehow he was there,” NFL Network analyst Jeremiah said in a conference call last week. “I think he should be gone by then. He's so athletic and explosive.”

Should Queen be on the board, the Ravens could have themselves a three-down linebacker capable of dropping into coverage or finding a ball-carrier behind the line of scrimmage. 

If Queen is on the board when the Ravens pick, even if there’s a hole at edge rusher, there will be a difficult decision to make for the Ravens.

Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

Perhaps the most popular selection in early mock drafts, Kenneth Murray could deliver the most realistic chance the Ravens have at getting an impact off-ball linebacker in the first round. 

Murray registered 102 tackles in his junior year, down from his 155 tackles he posted as a sophomore. He’s an excellent open-field tackler, one that can fill a hole in the Ravens front seven on day one. 

The former Oklahoma Sooner would fill a spot that linebacker C.J. Mosely left vacant after he went to the Jets in the spring of 2019. 

Zack Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin

Here, the Ravens could be almost forced to take an edge player. Enter Zack Baun.

Baun, an edge rusher at Wisconsin, was a disruptive force on the outside for the Badgers in perhaps college football’s toughest conference. 

In his final year in Madison, he made 76 total tackles and had 12.5 sacks — second in the Big 10 behind only Chase Young.

“Zack Baun from Wisconsin can give you versatility as somebody who can rush...then cover,” Jeremiah said. “When you talk about pure edge guys, you know they've (the Ravens) tended to lean more towards the physical rushers.”

The ceiling for Baun isn’t what Young’s ceiling is, but Baun — while a bit light at just 238 pounds — has the makings of a productive player at the NFL level.

Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado

Now, it’s time for some fun.

The Ravens had the NFL’s best and most explosive offense in 2019, led by MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown and Mark Ingram. While it might not make sense, on paper, to overlook other more prominent needs on the roster, another top wideout for Jackson is certainly on the needs list.

“Shenault would be a heck of a lot of fun,” Jeremiah continued. “I put down this list of guys in this draft, and I just wrote "Finding (49ers wide receiver) Deebo (Samuel)." 

Shenault, listed at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, compares physically to Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. At Colorado, Shenault caught 56 balls and totaled 764 yards for four touchdowns in 2019. A year prior, he eclipsed 1,000 yards through the air and had 86 catches and six touchdowns.

The way the Buffaloes used him, though, could play favorably to what the Ravens would like to do in the backfield. And with his big frame, he’s able to be versatile in any offense.

“I would go back, get more speed and just continue to add more speed like the Chiefs have done,” Jeremiah said. “I would double down. And I think Shenault would be a fun toy for them, somebody that could play in the slot. You can use the fly sweep stuff with him. You could put him in the backfield with Lamar hand him the ball. He's done that a bunch at Colorado, for a creative offense, there's none more creative than Greg Roman.”

Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

This one might seem like it’s out of left field, but Jalen Reagor is a wide receiver to watch at the combine. 

A speed demon at TCU, Reagor totaled just 611 yards in his final year of college, down from the 1,061 yards he posted a year prior. In that way, Shenault and Reagor are similar players. 

“So finding somebody with maybe some physicality to go along with their speed to complement Hollywood Brown in this offense, it would be fun to watch,” Jeremiah said, speaking generally of the Ravens’ offense.

Reagor, who called himself a mix of Tyreek Hill and Deebo Samuel at the combine this week, could run the fastest 40-yard dash in Indianapolis — even faster than former Alabama wideout Henry Ruggs. And Reagor, who weighed in at 206 pounds, was used in a way that could benefit the Ravens as well. 

TCU used him in a variety of ways: as a receiver, in the backfield and as a returner. Reagor could fill multiple roles, so don’t be surprised if the Ravens target the athletic wideout — even if it’s not in the first round of such a deep wide receiver class.

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Robert Griffin III calls for players to 'take a stand' and vote against CBA proposal

Robert Griffin III calls for players to 'take a stand' and vote against CBA proposal

The NFL Players Association voted Tuesday to move forward with the proposal for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and send it to the players for them to decide by holding a full vote of the entire body of active players.

A 17-game schedule, increased playoff field, greater revenue share for players, shorter preseason and additional roster spots are among the changes that would be instituted if the proposal is approved. While many of those changes would serve to benefit the players, some have taken to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the proposal.

Among those players is Ravens backup quarterback Robert Griffin III, who called on his colleagues to unite against the proposal.

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, who’s a vice president on the NFLPA’s executive committee, has actively spoken against the idea of expanding the season to 17 games, believing that it’s part of the league’s greater initiative to eventually push the season to 18 games.

Meanwhile, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Quandre Diggs doesn’t think the increased revenue share is enough.

Several quarterbacks, including Seahawks signal caller Russell Wilson and the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, have also joined the fight against the proposal in its current form.

Rodgers said his decision to vote no is based on his conversations "with the men in my locker room that I'm tasked to represent."

No timetable has been given for when the vote will be held.

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