The first half of the 2014 season was anything but easy for Kraig Urbik. After serving as Buffalo's starting right guard the previous three seasons, the former Wisconsin Badger was relegated to the second-team before last season began.
Erik Pears overtook Urbik's spot at right guard and Chris Williams was signed via free agency to assume the left guard position. After a Week 3 back injury, Williams was placed on injured reserve, opening an opportunity at guard. To the surprise of some, it was rookie Cyril Richardson who replaced Williams in the starting lineup. While frustrated with the situation at hand, Urbik continued to prepare as a starter with hopes that an opportunity would return his way.
"There were a lot of things going on that I couldn't control." said Urbik. "I was going out and playing the best I could. The fact of the matter was that I wasn't in the starting lineup. I just bit my tongue and worked my butt off every day, and eventually started. It was a difficult time but that's the past."
After inconsistent play along the offensive line continued, Urbik was named a starter before a pivotal Week 9 matchup against the New York Jets. From that point on, Urbik held his ground as the team's starting left guard throughout the remainder of the season.
Although fans may only remember Urbik for his on-field contributions, it was how the 29-year old responded to adversity throughout the first half of the season that will be remembered most by his teammates. Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn, who has played alongside Urbik since 2012, said that he took lessons from how professionally Urbik dealt with his difficult situation.
"He handled it like a pro should handle it," said Glenn. "He did everything he was asked to do, and always tried to help out his teammates. He continued to do all the little things such as extra film study, staying after practice, things like that. I actually took notice of what he was doing and tried to implement it into my game."
In preparation for the 2015 season, Bills general manager Doug Whaley and his staff addressed interior offensive line concerns by signing Richie Incognito and drafting John Miller. With the newcomers slated to heavily contribute at guard, Urbik has been asked to broaden his focus in an attempt to become a guard/center swing man. Throughout OTA practices, Urbik has taken most of his reps as the second-team center. While nearly all Urbik's playing time has come at the guard position, center isn't a foreign position to him. In the past, Urbik has taken practice reps behind starting center Eric Wood. Now, Urbik is refining his skills with offensive line coach Aaron Kromer to become more versatile than ever before.
"I've just gone into every practice with the mindset to get better and be the best I can," said Urbik. "Right now I'm working extensively with the centers and I've been trying to improve myself every day."
Urbik, who is entering his sixth season in Buffalo, has impressed in his transition to become a trusted utility man along the interior offensive line. His humble, team-first approach has been noticed by his coaches and teammates. Glenn has been especially impressed with how Urbik has grasped the center position. "I think he's doing a real good job right now," said Glenn. "We're all just trying to pick up the new things within the offense scheme-wise and play-wise. Kraig is continuing to work on all the little things to help him get better every single day. He's just trying to mold his skills every day like the rest of us and continually improve."