Orchard Park, NY -- You don't have to tell Buffalo Bills left guard Andy Levitre how substantial of a year it is for him in 2012.
"This is a big year for me. Obviously it's the last year of my deal," the fourth-year player said on Tuesday. "I feel like it's going to determine my future and the rest of my career as a football player."
The stakes are high, but the Bills' most versatile offensive lineman in 2011 seems to be someone the team would like to keep around past this year. The 26-year old has been a starter for Buffalo since his rookie season --playing in all 48 games since he was drafted -- which could be a good indicator as to why the franchise has reached out to his camp already.
Levitre said there is some preliminary interest from the Bills about the possibilities of extending him beyond 2012.
"There have been some small talks, but I don't know how far along anything is," he remarked. "I don't know if they're just getting started or what not. There hasn't been any numbers thrown around or anything like that, so maybe just getting started."
It was quite a quick turnaround for Levitre from where he was at training camp in 2011 to the dependable player he turned himself in to by the end of the campaign.
The left guard was in the doghouse early on, getting a wake-up call from head coach Chan Gailey. Levitre saw his repetitions with the first team get cut in half, and watched reserve offensive lineman Chad Rinehart battle him for the starting job.
Order was restored shortly after, and the message sunk in with the Oregon State product. From that point forward, Levitre transformed himself in to the Bills' best player along the offensive line.
When both Demetress Bell and Chris Hairston went down with an injury, Levitre was there to kick out to left tackle and did so at an above average level. When Eric Wood tore his ACL, Levitre was the player the Bills chose to fill in at center.
"I feel like I did fairly well," he said about jumping around different positions along the line. "I wasn't the greatest, but my main thing was to just give the team the best chance to succeed. I know that I have confidence that if I needed to do something like that again that I'm up for the challenge and I feel like I can get it done. I feel like it only helps me too being able to do something like that."
To the Bills' credit, they really spent this off-season making sure that all their core pieces would be intact for the team in 2012. If the preliminary interest is a sign, the organization must believe Levitre can be a part of that equation as well.
Seeing the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Williams, Stevie Johnson, Scott Chandler and Fred Jackson all signing new contracts this off-season has surely done a lot for the psyche of the locker room.
"I feel like we're building a pretty solid confidence about ourselves that we didn't have a few years ago when I first got here," Levitre opined. "It's nice to get a lot of the core guys that they want back, keep them here and really develop this team. It'll give us a chance to have success for many years. I'm really looking forward to it."
If you follow Levitre on Twitter, you'll notice he's a big proponent of the people and restaurants of Buffalo. For the Los Gatos, CA native, the queen city is now his home away from home.
"It's great. All the people here have been great," he said. "A lot of people come up to me and just want to chat, introduce themselves. It's been great. Lots of great people, great food. I have a list of restaurants I still want to try out. I feel like I at least want to try them all before my career is done."
If all goes well, Levitre may have more than just seven months to try and cram all of them in.
The Bills will have Wednesday off, then wrap-up Organized Team Activities on Thursday and Friday.