It's been a tough year for Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, both personally and professionally.
It started in the spring when his wife Kelly was diagnosed with a brain tumor that required surgery. Kelly's surgery went successfully, despite taking longer than initially anticipated, and she powered through her recovery with strength and grace.
On the football field, Stafford had to learn a new offense under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. He was playing some really good football to begin the year, maybe the best he's ever played, but Detroit was still finding a way to lose close games.
Stafford and Lions were 3-4-1 when a hit late in the Oakland game Week 9 caused an injury to Stafford's back and ultimately ended his season.
"It was tough," Stafford said of 2019. "Obviously, the off-the-field stuff was tough. I've touched on that before, but as far as stuff going on here, difficult losing games and obviously not fun being injured and not being able to play and help us win.
"That's what I work for, chances to go play, didn't get enough of them this year, I just wish I could have been out there."
Stafford missed the final eight games of the season, and Detroit was 0-8 without him.
At the time of his injury, Stafford was completing 64.3 percent of his passes for 2,499 yards, 19 touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 106.0. He was leading the league in 20-plus-yard completions (41) and had a career-best yards-per-attempt average of 8.6. He was pretty dialed into the offense at the time of his injury.
Stafford said he currently feels really good physically – better than he did last year when he played through a back injury to finish the season – and isn't expected to have any limitations when the Lions begin the offseason training program in March.
"I'll be feeling really, really good pretty darn soon, to tell you the truth," he said Monday.
Two back injuries in two straight seasons could be a little worrisome for the franchise quarterback to go through, but Stafford didn't seem too concerned about his future prognosis, and even joked that his preventative measure next season will be to just slide more.
Really, the only thing Stafford seems concerned about right now is finding a way to help this team win more than the three games they did this season.
He said he's got some ideas of what this team needs to make that a reality, but said he'll keep those thoughts between himself, head coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn. Those conversations will take place in the next few weeks.
"We always have open dialogue," Stafford said. "Conversations about all sorts of things within this organization, locker room, all of it. Not to say my opinion is more weighted than anyone else's, but I just have been here for a while and seen quite a bit.
"I think they do a good job of communicating with me and I just try to give them honest feedback and what they do with it after that is up to them."
Make no mistake, Stafford's opinion does carry more weight because of who he is and his status within the organization. He's hoping to come back healthy and help the team make the proper moves this offseason to help turn this thing around.
There's only a couple days left in 2019. Stafford is looking forward to 2020, and the prospects a new season might bring.
"Every year four or five teams that didn't make (the playoffs) the year before are in and teams that made it aren't in," Stafford said. "Every year is its own year."