For people who study quarterbacks – and Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has been a student of their play since he was a youngster – New England Patriots star Tom Brady continues to write and update the manual on how quarterbacks prepare and are judged.
From his meticulous physical training regimen and diet to his performance and accomplishments, Brady is the standard to follow.
Brady is a true athletic master – the best of the best. His presence adds some interest to Friday night's Patriots-Lions preseason game at Ford Field.
Winning, longevity and performance are the benchmarks for rating quarterbacks, and Brady continues to raise the bar – with no ceiling for how high he puts it.
Brady leads all quarterbacks with five Super Bowl rings. At the age of 40 and about to begin his 18th pro season and 17th as the starting quarterback, he is an athletic marvel. Brady follows a detailed training and diet regimen that he has tweaked for a dozen years to maximize his skills and prolong his career.
Other quarterbacks have followed suit, including Stafford. Stafford, 29 and going into his ninth season with the Lions, has gotten leaner in recent years. He also has gotten more durable. He has started every game since opening day of 2011 after missing 19 games his first two seasons because of injuries that were not related to physical conditioning.
"The best ability is availability, especially at quarterback," Stafford said during training camp. "The more you can do, the longer you can play. And the more experience you get, the game's going to feel that much easier to you from a mental and feel standpoint.
"And the longer you can hang around, for sure."
Brady talked about his training program on his weekly appearance on a Boston radio station earlier this week.
"You work really hard to take care of your body," he said. "It's your only asset – for all of us in all of our lives. I watched and learned. It's been an evolving process, I'd say, for the last 12 years.
"You build on certain things that work. If you work hard at doing the wrong things, you get better at getting worse. If you work hard at the right things, you see a lot of improvement."
Stafford has not given specific details on what he has done in terms of diet and training methods. He has always been a hard worker, but this year he added a personal quarterback coach to his offseason program in addition to his work with the Lions' coaching staff.
"I think it's small refinements along the way," he said. "You find things that work for you, find things that maybe don't work for you and try to eliminate them – and do more of the things that work."
Similar to grooving a golf swing?
"A little bit," Stafford said. "But everybody's got their own swing in golf, just like everybody has their own stroke throwing a football. There are things you bounce off people. They might work, they might not work.
"I don't have a lot of people I talk to. You kind of do it by trial and error."
Arm strength has never been a question with Stafford. Neither has his willingness to stand in the pocket long enough to get the ball off before taking a hit.
But he is developing more touch. An example of that was a pass he floated to TJ Jones in the first preseason game for a 22-yard gain.
"I think I've got the fast balls down," Stafford said this week. "Pretty good at those … made a living at those for a long time."
Stafford said that from looking at tape in the offseason, he saw plays where it was better to take a little off the fast ball.
"There's a big play to be had there if you could just throw it over this guy and throw it around this guy," he said. "I studied all that stuff – how can I generalize this and work on something to get better.
"And that's kind of some of the stuff that I'm working on."