ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Bobby Hart struggled a year ago throughout Bills training camp and the preseason.
Outside criticism followed.
A lot of it.
None of which Hart ever saw or heard.
"I just blocked it all out because at the end of the day it doesn't matter," Hart said. "If they say you're good, they say you're bad, these aren't the people that are putting the team together or telling you you're in. So why would I listen to what you have to say? I respect you as a fan of the game and stuff like that, but your criticism bad and your praise good, it doesn't do anything for me."
Which is why he only reads tweets from people he follows, doesn't allow comments on his Instagram, and never searches his name on any social media platform.
While not nearly as harsh, the Bills also felt Hart's play a year ago wasn't good enough and let him go during final roster cuts.
It was the first time in his then six-year NFL career that he was cut.
It's quite a reality check for someone with 66 starts under their belt.
"I definitely went harder than I had been going in the past because I don't want to say you get comfortable, but you kind of get in a groove," Hart admitted. "It was kind of redundant. The same things had been working for me. The things I had been doing in the offseason. I had started three straight years so you just keeping on, keeping on. The same routine because it'd been working. But then when you don't get the results you want you get back to the drawing board. Obviously I'm not doing certain things right or I'm not doing it to the level of my peers that they brought in. So I definitely changed a lot of things and went a lot harder because I didn't like that taste that was in my mouth. Getting that call 'We love you, but we got to let you go.' It was bad. I didn't like it."
Hart returned to the Bills' practice squad in late September before the Titans signed him to their active roster in October. Tennessee released him in November after suiting up for three games with one start.
That's when he found his way back to the Bills, this time on the 53-man roster.
The team brought him back on a one-year deal this past offseason.
That's when the changes really went into effect for Hart.
"I did a lot more offensive line work this offseason," Hart explained. "A lot of it used to be just training and weights and conditioning and running. But there was a lot more attention to detail. With Kromer coming in and the techniques that he wanted to do, I was implementing a lot of his techniques in my workout plan so when I came here I wasn't trying to get the techniques down. I already had the techniques down and I could just get my feet up under me."
The other change for Hart was a new position, which came about by a simple conversation.
"You want to play guard? That's how it went," Hart laughed while remembering. "Can you play guard? I'm like 'yeah.' You're not going to say no. 'Nah I don't play guard.' So I just got in."
"It's a good team," Hart added. "It's a real good team, so any spot that they ask you to play, I just want it. They put me in and said you're going in with the 1's at guard. Can you do it? I'm not going to say no. So at the end of the day, it's just ball. It's the same techniques. Things at guard happen a little bit faster, but the willingness to just not wanting to lose is really just my mindset."
The results of all these changes have been great, earning praise from those decision makers that truly matter, including head coach Sean McDermott, who says Hart's improved immensely.
"He's done a phenomenal job," McDermott added. "He's a veteran player that's moved around a little bit from team to team, but I think he's played his best ball when he's been here and certainly appreciate his attitude. He's got a great attitude. No job too small, no job too big type of approach and you see that in his play."
"You first put him in there to see can they handle it mentally and Bobby's done great mentally," General Manager Brandon Beane said on the move to guard. "So we look at Bobby as a guy who can play up to four spots if we need him. Versatility is big. He's better at some spots than the other, but I think Bobby's done a great job and like a lot of guys he's fighting to make this roster."
The actions of Beane show his faith in the steps forward Hart has taken, trading Cody Ford to Arizona this week for a fifith-round pick.
That moves out the likely biggest competition for him to make the team.
Still, Hart's focus goes beyond next week's cuts.
"It don't make me take a deep breath because at the end of the day I've got so much stuff I need to work on," Hart said. "Making the team is not my end goal. Being a good player, a great player in this league is ultimately my goal. So even if it is like 'Bobby, you're on the team now,' there's so much stuff that I need to work on at guard and tackle. So that's what it's about for me."
"It's bigger than just making the team or okay, I'm safe. I'm on the 53. It's about being a top player in this league."
And getting there doing his best block on and off the field.