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Don’t call him head coach, or even interim head coach. Elijah

October 23, 1995

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) _ Don’t call him head coach, or even interim head coach. Elijah Pitts is still an assistant and he’s happy to be one as long as Marv Levy is his boss.

The Bills’ usual head coach will miss three weeks, starting tonight against New England, because of prostate surgery. As assistant head coach, Pitts will take over while the boss is out.

``I never looked at it as an opportunity,″ Pitts, 23 years an assistant, said of his temporary promotion. ``I looked at it as my job.″

In fact, Pitts’ job won’t even change that much. Levy has already planned out the practices for the next three weeks. And Pitts, like Levy before him, will leave most of the play-calling to his assistants, taking over only on short-yardage and goal-line situations.

``Other than that, everything’s going to stay mostly the same,″ quarterback Jim Kelly said. ``I expect the team to react the same as if he was here. We have a job to do. ... We have to go about business just like if he was here.″

That’s not to say Levy won’t be missed.

``We realize what’s at stake. And we realize what Coach Levy’s meant to us,″ Kelly said.

Offensive lineman Jerry Ostrowski agreed.

``We want to rally around him and do well, but you’re not going to see any last-minute, win-one-for-the-Gipper speeches,″ he said. ``Everyone wants to do well, and that’s the best gift we can give him. He doesn’t want anything else. We just want to give him some wins.″

Buffalo (5-1) is trying to extend a five-game winning streak, while the Patriots (1-5) are looking to end a five-game skid. New England coach Bill Parcells doesn’t expect to gain any advantage from Levy’s absence.

``They are not going to do anything different,″ Parcells said. ``Marv Levy is the head coach of the team. These guys, they have their philosophy, it is in place, and that is what they are going to use.″

With his easy-going practices and meetings that sometimes seem more like history lectures, the grandfatherly Levy is beloved among his players and staff. Last year, after a big win, he even wrote a fight song and sang it to them.

He learned during the summer that he had prostate cancer but planned to postpone surgery until after the NFL season. When doctors told him there was a risk in waiting, he decided to have it now.

Levy, who says he’s never missed a practice, meeting or game in 45 years of coaching, informed the team after last week’s victory over Seattle.

``You could hear a pin drop in the room,″ Pitts said. ``It was a touching scene. It’s still very touching to me thinking about it.

``For whatever reason, whether it’s for Marv or for me, I believe they’re going to play (well). You’ve got a group of guys who have a lot of feelings for Marv.″

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