The first two years of Cody Ford's NFL career haven't gone well.
"Especially my rookie year," Ford remembered. "We were playing Denver and I had to block Von Miller on a 1-on-1 on the backside and luckily Josh Allen's a good QB because he got rid of it."
He powered through nearly that entire rookie season with a shoulder injury.
Last season ended after seven games because of a knee injury.
Doubt crept in.
"There's just moments in life where, dang, do I belong or whatnot," Ford admitted.
But this past offseason Ford decided to make a change.
"The whole part of me having the new mindset was no, I'm here for a reason," Ford said. "This is what I've always worked for. This is what I've always wanted and there's no doubt in my mind. I belong in the NFL."
The position where Ford belonged in the NFL has been the biggest question surrounding him since he was drafted in the 2nd round by the Bills in 2019.
It began with the debate between tackle and guard, with Ford playing both during his time at Oklahoma.
He saw time in 2019 at both right tackle and right guard.
"For me, I definitely feel like the guard position is where I need to be," Ford said. "When I was at tackle, we call it the island. Left tackle, right tackle, it's always the island because at some point you're going to have a 1-on-1 with a guy who is making $20 million a year and your guard is setting away from you and it's you and that guy with about as much space as we have right now. He can go wherever he wants and all you can do is go backwards and sideways. He can go wherever he wants and that for me was always the struggle. Being able to handle those guys in space that can really move."
Last season Ford played exclusively inside at guard, with results improving.
"I can get close to people," Ford explained. "I get to be able to be more aggressive. It's a better suit for me. I get to slow things down. I get to communicate with two people instead of just one. At tackle, you look over and it's just a guard, unless you have a tight end who comes in. But other than that, at guard I get to talk to two people at both times."
But all the moving around did hurt his development these first two years in the league.
"If I'm going to start at left guard, but I know I'm going to take reps at right, I have to figure out what I'm working on my left side while I'm working on my right side. What do I have to fix on each side?"
As Ford rehabbed the knee injury this past offseason, there still was no exact plan for a set position.
Then right before training camp began, he was told right guard was where he'd play.
"Now I just get to go to practice and master my craft," Ford said. "That's what I get to do. Just go in, lock myself in at right guard. Be able to master my craft in that aspect. I get to stay next to Daryl [Williams] the whole time so it's not like I'm going with different people. So it's just helping everything out. I'm definitely not going to be like I'm not going back to left ever. If that needs to happen it'll happen, but for me to be able to just lock in at right guard is way, way beneficial for me."
A set position not the only change for Ford this season.
His mental game is different.
"At first, to be such a young guy, it was hard to ignore the outside noise," Ford admitted. "But looking back on it now and even looking forward, anybody who's not here at the Bills facility, who's with us every day, who's not family, friends, whatever they think, whatever they say is on them."
What helped Ford shift his mindset was starting to talk with a mental health professional this offseason.
"Once I was hurt and once I started realizing my mind is going, like playing one of those Game Boy games where you got to hit the ball before it hits the wall. That's where my mind was going. It was over here one day. Then the other day it was over here. I wasn't able to be in the building during COVID. I'm at home alone, it's snowing outside. I can't just hop in the truck and drive. It's a lot going on. It's a lot going on and I can't do much to help myself out. So the only way out I had was to talk it out."
Since opening up about that early in training camp, some of Ford's teammates have asked about his experience with the mental health professional. Fans also reached out to Ford through social media to thank him for being open about it.
"I don't want to be nobody's savior," Ford said. "But I feel like if someone can see a professional athlete let their guard down or open up about something that they may have the same problem with, you get that positive re-enforcement and you get a 'Hey man, I was dealing with the same thing. Maybe not to your extent, but your worries and what you said helped me out so much.' And then they go out and they may go help someone else. So now it's like a pay it forward."
That locked-in mindset paired with a locked-in position appear to have Cody Ford finally locked-in to the potential the Bills believe he has on and off the field.