The maturation of Matthew Stafford has been evident this offseason.
Off the field, the ninth-year quarterback became a first-time father with the birth of his twin daughters. On the field, in an attempt to take the next step as a player and leader, Stafford sought out the help of an offseason quarterback coach for the first time in his career.
"I put a ton of work in," Stafford said Saturday of his offseason work. "Did some extra stuff maybe I hadn't done in the past. Put some work in with some people that I feel like I'm going to benefit from."
View photos of Detroit Lions players arriving at the team's practice facility for the start of 2017 training camp.
Stafford declined to give details on who he worked with or what they focused on, other than to say those workouts took place in California, but he feels he'll benefit from the sessions.
"I'm pleased with the progress," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Stafford. "He's moving forward still and I still believe that you just have not seen the best of him yet. He's still heading in that direction."
With 4,327 passing yards in 2016, Stafford joined Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards in six of a player's first eight seasons.
Stafford completed 65.3 percent of his passes with 24 touchdowns and a career-low 10 interceptions (in full season), and was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
But as Caldwell pointed out Saturday, there's always room for improvement, and Stafford took the initiative this offseason to seek out a different perspective to try and help him take the next step and become one of the elite quarterbacks in this league.
"Just working on being as good a player as I can possibly be," he said. "Mentally, physically, on the field, off the field, all of that. It all goes into it."
In the past, Stafford has been hesitant to work with some of the "quarterback gurus" many of the league's other passers have opted to work with in the offseason.
Why the change now going into year nine?
Stafford has reached a point in his career where his biggest competitor is himself. So, if he's going to be the best he can be, why not seek every opinion and turn every stone if it could help him reach another level.
"I just thought it was an opportunity and went for it and enjoyed it," Stafford said.
"I just want what's best for this team. I want what's best for me as a player. If I play well, our team's going to play well. It just goes into preparation and doing everything you possibly can."
One of the influences in Stafford's decision to see a quarterback coach this offseason was advice he got from last year's NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Matt Ryan. Ryan, Tom Brady and others have worked in California in years past with former pitchers turned quarterback gurus Tom House and Adam Dedeaux.
"I definitely talked to (Ryan) about it and his experience and bounced some ideas off him," Stafford said. "We talk a decent amount and I definitely talked to him about it and got advice from him."
Caldwell says Stafford has come to camp in the best shape he's ever been in since Caldwell's been in Detroit. Stafford agreed.
Stafford has tasted the playoffs three times in his career, but now says the goal "is to make a run." He knows his level of play will play a big factor in whether they're able to be in that position do that this upcoming season or not.
It's part of the reason why Stafford changed his offseason routine and did everything he could to take the step in his development. It shows a greater level of maturity and understanding of his role as one of this team's most important leaders.