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Despite comfort level, Stafford knows there's still room to improve

Quarterback Matthew Stafford admits the start of training camp No. 10 for him is significantly different than it was for his first one in 2009, or even his second or third ones after that.

There's a comfort level that comes with nine seasons under his belt. He's familiar with the way training camp runs, the preseason routine and what's expected in the regular season. There's not much a defense can throw at Stafford he hasn't already seen. He's now among the most experienced players on the Detroit Lions roster.

But even at age 30, and entering his 10th NFL season, Stafford knows there's still plenty of room for growth in his game.

"I'm always trying to find a way to be better, and I don't see myself as a finished product really ever," he said Thursday.

"Every year you go back and kind of go through your game with a fine-tooth comb and just pick out one little thing here. 'Hey, I was working on this going into last year, did I get better at it or not? Do I still need to work on it even more?'"

View photos of Detroit Lions players arriving for 2018 training camp presented by Rocket Mortgage.

Stafford said football is a game of habits, and developing good ones is how good players continue to grow and get better year after year.

He's coming off a 2017 season that saw him throw for at least 4,000 yards for a seventh consecutive season. He set a new career-high passer rating of 99.3. He ranked third among the league's passers in yards (4,446), third in completions (371), fourth in touchdowns (29) and sixth in completion percentage (65.7). His 14 completions of 40-plus yards were the second most in the NFL last year.

Still, there's always room to improve.

"I think I'm always trying to clean up footwork and stuff in the pocket," Stafford said. "That's something that I've worked on for years and I feel like I'm getting better at and I can continue to get better at."

All the labor put in this offseason, and the work to be done in the next few weeks of training camp, is done in an attempt to help this team get back into the playoffs and have the kind of success in the playoffs that's eluded them through Stafford's tenure.

He called the NFL a "prove-it league," and that's part of the motivation for him to continue to develop his game in year 10, knowing there's still a lot more he wants to accomplish.

"There's that mindset to go out there and work to prove people wrong, I just want to prove myself right that I put this work in for a reason," Stafford said. "I'm not doing it to prove anyone else wrong. I'm doing it to prove myself right and understand that what I do is for the betterment of the team and this organization and that's kind of the positive spin on it (the talk of not having won in the playoffs) I go for. It works for me.

"Nobody has higher expectations than we do in our locker room. We hold each other accountable to being a really good football team and doing things the right way all the time. We just come to work every day with the mindset to get better and that's what we're trying to do."

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