-- ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Toward the end of the 2013 season, with the Detroit Lions heading toward another collapse of a finish, quarterback Matthew Stafford scoffed at the idea he should work with a private quarterback coach. At the time, he said he didn't think it would be "beneficial" to him.
Now, at age 29, Stafford has changed his mind.
For the first time in his career, Stafford spent time with a private quarterback tutor this offseason. He worked in California -- the Detroit Free Press tweeted it is Tom House's group, the same one who works with Stafford's friend, Matt Ryan?-- trying to find small areas here and there to improve his game. "Just it is the first time for me, ever since John Stafford taught me how to throw a football," Stafford said. "But yeah, when you're preparing, competing really against yourself to be as good as you can possibly be, why not give it everything you've got.
"Find different people with different ideas, maybe, that can help you out. Just thought it was an opportunity and went for it and enjoyed it."
Stafford said that he did it because if he plays well, the Lions will play well. This comes after a season during which Stafford completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 4,327 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He said his meetings with a private quarterback coach were not an "overhaul" of what he does, but "little things here and there to think about." He said there's "nothing that I feel you guys would see that would ever make a difference." He said it was an "all-encompassing" experience, from things he picked up on the field and in the locker room.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he thinks Stafford might be in better shape now than he has been at this point in any other offseason he's been with him, and Stafford appeared slimmer when he spoke with reporters Saturday.
"I'm pleased with the progress," Caldwell said. "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."
Part of reaching that level was seeking out help from the outside. When he decided to go to a quarterback guru, he consulted with Ryan, who led the Falcons to a Super Bowl appearance last season and was named the league's Most Valuable Player. Ryan had the highest touchdown total (38) and lowest interception total (7) of his career last season.
"I definitely talked to him about it and his experience," Stafford said. "Bounced some ideas off of him. He definitely, we talk a decent amount, and I definitely talked to him about it, got advice."
Now he's using that to focus on football, even as he is in line to potentially become the highest-paid player in NFL history. Stafford said he would "be doing a disservice to the guys in the locker room" if he thought much about his contract or talked much about it and that he has no timetable for when a deal might get done.
Stafford said those are continuing discussions between the franchise and his agent, Tom Condon, and that the only time he fields questions about it is when he talks with the media. He said he would discuss things with his agent about whether or not they would continue negotiating into the season. He said "I don't know" if playing through the season without an extension done is an option.
"Honestly I'm pretty tired of talking about it," Stafford said. "I'm going to be here playing for 16 games at least, hopefully a lot more than that, but we'll see."