Tamba Hali and Justin Houston haven't played for the Kansas City Chiefs since early January, and during all that time, someone has needed to fill the void.
Through the entire offseason and four days of full-team training camp, that someone has been third-year linebacker Dee Ford, who is relishing all that extra time on the field.
This is why he was drafted to Kansas City.
"I'm here to do what I've always wanted to do," Ford said at a press conference after practice Tuesday in St. Joseph. "As far as my goals, I see this as an opportunity. I knew at some point this is where I would be, so for the last couple of years, I have been working to get to this point."
In his first two years in the league, the 2014 first-round pick saw his snaps rise from 122 in '14 to 480 in '15.
From just 8 combined tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2014, he compiled 22 tackles and 4.0 sacks in 2015, and the goal he has set now is to further increase that production in his third season.
When asked what is different about him now from when he was a rookie, Ford said it's his intelligence.
"I'm a lot smarter," Ford said. "When I was younger I didn't work smart. I just worked hard, but not smart. That's synonymous … That's equivalent to not working at all to me because when you're not working smart, you're putting yourself in a situation for your body to peak out."
When Ford says "working smart," what he means is not over-training himself to the point that by the time he reaches the season, he can't perform at a high level. That is a mistake he said he made during his first two seasons.
"Let's just say you bench 335 one day," Ford explained. "The next day, don't go bench 335. Give your body time to recover. I would get so obsessed with my improvement that I would overdo it. If I keep doing it, you'll get to a point where your body breaks down on you because you're not setting yourself up for [training camp]."
Reporters asked Bob Sutton about Ford's training habits, but he said they would be better off talking to a strength coach.
All Sutton cares about is whether or not Ford plays well on the football field.
"He's like most of our guys—he has to keep playing very well for us and keep improving," Sutton said. "I thought he had a really good offseason in OTAs. He registered a very good season, where he showed us some really positive things."
As has been well documented, Ford had the best game of his career last season during Week 14 against the San Diego Chargers.
With Houston out due to injury, he recorded a team-high 7 tackles, 3 sacks and 3 passes defensed.
This season, Sutton wants to see more of that kind of production on a weekly basis.
"To Dee, it's about being consistent," Sutton added. "He's done a great job. He had some great get-offs today out there. He's working really hard and obviously, with Justin being injured, that's really a key guy for us, and we need him to step forward."