TAMPA -- In the black notebook he carries, even this week at the Super Bowl, there is part of a page that has no football jargon. There are no diagrams, no Xs or Os, nothing even remotely related to football. On that page in Steve Tasker's notebook, Buffalo's special teams player keeps a list of words he's had to look up in the dictionary, words spoken by his coach, Marv Levy, that have caused players to say "Huh?"

Levy, a Harvard man and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Coe College, will drop one in every now and then. Tasker, a Northwestern grad with a pretty good handle on the language himself, went to the black book Wednesday morning to check on the latest Marv words. "Let's see, here's extrapolate, inculcate, clandestine, debacle, salient and slovenly," Tasker said. "As you see, some of them are used to describe how we play."

You might recall the NFL Films clip in which Levy, wearing a microphone on the sideline when he was coach at Kansas City, called an offending referee "an over-officious jerk."

Sometimes, even without Marv words, Levy will stare into a room full of blank, lost faces. "At that point," quarterback Frank Reich said, "he'll sense that nobody understood what he said and he'll backtrack."

Levy could have been a lot of things. He was at Harvard Law School in 1951. But he chose to leave to take a junior varsity job at Country Day School in St. Louis. Levy can recall the phone conversation even now, when he called his father and said he was leaving law school to coach a JV team in St. Louis. "The phone went silent for a minute," he said, "then my father just said, 'You better be a good one.' "

Levy chose to coach at Coe, at William and Mary, at Cal, at New Mexico. He has coached in the NFL (including with the Redskins, in charge of special teams under George Allen), the CFL and the USFL. When he signed in 1985 to coach the Chicago Blitz, one of the strongest teams in the USFL, he didn't know a deal had already been struck to exchange franchises with the 2-16 Arizona Wranglers. Levy found out the next day. Of that experience, in his home town of Chicago, Levy said: "The club was totally, totally, totally devoid of funds. We went to airports in school buses. They didn't supply the bathrooms with toilet paper. One Christmas an assistant coach wrapped up toilet paper and handed it out."

He might have been senior partner in a law firm or judge by now, but Levy chose to coach. "Wherever I was," he said, "I felt, 'I'm going to be here the rest of my life.' " This day, Levy, now 62, was asked how long he'd like to keep this up, and he answered, seemingly with a straight face, "Oh, 20, 25 more years."

Levy was on stage Wednesday, sort of on trial too, for skipping Tuesday's media day. At media day, hundreds and hundreds of reporters crowd around and ask you probing questions like: "If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?" (to Dexter Manley) or, "How long have you been a black quarterback?" (to Doug Williams).

Levy skipped it because he was concerned Super Bowl week was becoming a cram session. Without that week in between, the Bills had to travel, settle in, then get right into the routine of preparing for the Giants. You don't want to cram for LT and the Giants.

So Levy has been, or will be, fined at least $5,000. "I will apologize to you and to the league for not being there," Levy said. "I regret that it caused the stir that it did, but I don't regret spending the time the way I did. I felt we were behind in our preparations. I made the decision that preparations for the game were our first priority. I've been coaching for 40 years and this is the game of my life. I'm not going to cut corners."

With that mix of graciousness and candor, Levy was off the hook with the media in record time. Levy, simply, was doing what he does. He doesn't do Quarterback Clubs, he doesn't do speaking gigs in the offseason. Levy exercises, he reads, he sleeps and he coaches. That's it, by his own admission.

He said he was up at 4 a.m., we assume searching for ways to beat the Giants. Much of their success this year has been credited, rightfully, to Bill Parcells. When the Redskins are going good, which is most times, credit is heaped {though unwanted} upon Joe Gibbs. Bill Walsh, blessed with the greatest quarterback of all time, still gets nearly as much credit for the success of the 49ers as Joe Montana.

You will not, however, grow tired this week of hearing people sing Marv Levy's praises, even though he has helped assemble an outrageously talented team and even though he was able to ride herd over a collection of young, headstrong superstars -- in his own reasoned manner -- until they stopped squandering opportunities and fulfilled their considerable potential.

Levy is strong-willed, as some of his battles with Bruce Smith would suggest, but not completely inflexible. Two years ago in the AFC title game, he ripped Cincinnati's use of the no-huddle offense. Now, because it suits Jim Kelly's talents and it helps his team, the Bills often run with no-huddle from the first snap of the game.

The Bickering Bills of last year might have brought out the worst in Levy. They didn't. "His is a fresh approach in this industry," Reich said. "There's more than one way to skin a cat. Amongst all the controversy and hype with this team, he constantly finds ways to focus and refocus this team. And it's relaxing to hear that tone of voice."