Allen Park — Entering his 10th training camp, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is still learning and looking for ways to get improve.
Many things come easier than they did when he was a younger player. Repetition is the father of learning and he’s seen just about everything a defense can throw at him. As he’s processed that experience, he’s seen a steady increase in his efficiency in recent years, as well as a decline in his mistakes.
Other things come harder. At 30 years old, he readily admits his body doesn’t recover as quickly as it used to when he entered the league, a fresh-faced 21-year-old kid out of the University of Georgia.
“Just getting up and moving around is more difficult as you play more years,” Stafford said.
That’s not to say he’s breaking down. Stafford has started a franchise-record 112 consecutive games at quarterback and noted he hasn’t felt this good coming into a training camp in some time.
He’ll be looking to build on his stellar 2017 campaign, one where he completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 4,446 yards and 29 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. And he will benefit from the return of coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who survived the franchise's offseason coaching change.
“The fact that we’ve been in same system going on three, four years now, whatever it is, being able to have quite the shorthand that we have to talk about plays — it doesn’t take a big, long explanation for Stafford and I to communicate about a play — we can sort of dive right into it,” Cooter said. “That’s really valuable.”
Cooter raves about Stafford’s work ethic, saying the quarterback epitomizes the mantra of working to get better every day. At this stage in his career, the focus has shifted to the minutiae, the finer details of pocket movement, footwork or maybe perfecting a specific throw.
Last season, Stafford showcased an increased ability to make plays with his feet when his pocket broke down. From a throwing perspective, the consistency of his deep passes were as good as it had been in his career.
But for all of his individual success, team achievements have largely eluded Stafford. He’s made three trips to the postseason, but has yet to secure his first division title or playoff victory.
Stafford knows he can’t change the past, so he prefers to talk about the future. And while detractors will point to the lack of postseason victories, it's not a source of motivation.
“Nobody has higher expectations than we do, in our locker room,” Stafford said. “We hold each other accountable to being a really good football team, doing things the right way all the time. All that outside stuff doesn’t really get to us. We really don’t talk about it, don’t hear it.
“There’s that mindset to go out and prove people wrong, all that kind of stuff, but I just want to prove myself right, that I put in all this work for a reason,” Stafford said. “I’m not doing it to prove anybody else wrong, I’m doing it to prove myself right and understanding what I do is for the betterment of this team, this organization. That’s the positive spin I go for and that works for me.”