For the most part in sports, players tend to wear down and see a decline in their level of play as they age into their 30s.
Adam Jones has defied that and has continually improved almost every year he's been with the Bengals. Say what you will about Jones' history of bad decisions or questionable attitude, but he's been one of the NFL's better cornerbacks over the past four seasons and a key member of Cincinnati's secondary.
A big reason why is Jones' tireless dedication to honing his craft, whether it's on the football field, in the gym or in the film room, as we saw in an ESPN feature in which Jones shares how he uses film to dominate his opponents.
A lot of it is simply studying the opponent and putting in that extra work on the mental side.
"Just today we watched film off and on from 7 a.m. until 5:30," Jones said. "We practiced for maybe two hours. So that should tell you how much of a mental game this is now. Lots of kids are coming into the NFL dumb as hell, and they can't pick up a defense.
"With what we face from offenses, you have to be able to check out of three calls in a few seconds before every play. If the receivers are lined up two-by-two, we're playing this coverage -- wait, nope, now they shifted to three-by-one, now we're playing another call. If I had a son and he was gifted like me at football, the main thing I would stress to him is the mental aspect of the game."
But knowing what your opponent can do and how to defend it will only take you so far. Jones knows that it also takes limitless hours of sharpening every part of his technique and staying within the rules of the NFL, which favors offenses now more than ever.
"So many rules now. You just have to hone your craft even more because the whole thing is set up for me not to be good," Jones said. "My mentality now is so different than it used to be. I'm walking up in press coverage, and I'm thinking to myself, ‘I gotta guard this guy within the rules.' I know if I even touch him after 6, 7 yards downfield they're gonna flag me. It makes you focus on little stuff.
"Focus on your feet at the line -- that's how you have to win the route, by being in good position. I used to go up, quick-jam the guy, keep my hands on him and then wait and feel and turn when he turned. Can't do that now. Focusing on the little stuff is the biggest change in how I play."
2015 was the first time in Jones' 11-year career that he made the Pro Bowl, and it came after he had arguably his best season as a pro. Appearing in 14 games last season, Jones was the Bengals' No. 1 corner and someone who routinely locked down opposing receivers on the boundary.
He was a big reason why the Bengals ranked fourth in passing yards allowed per pass attempt (6.6), ranked fifth in opponent passer rating (78.9) and allowed the second-fewest touchdown passes (18). Jones also racked up 62 total tackles, 12 pass deflections, and three interceptions that season.
The former No. 6 overall pick of the Titans in the 2005 NFL Draft, Jones spent most of his career as a return specialist who happened to play cornerback. He was more often a liability who gave up as many big plays as he made.
Combined with multiple off-the-field issues, Jones bounced around from the Titans to the Cowboys before landing in Cincinnati in 2010 after sitting out the 2009 season.
When looking back at those years in which Jones seemed lost on- and off-the-field, he admits his foolish ways hurt his game, but he's focused on being the complete opposite now.
"I look at when I first came out, dumb as bricks," Jones said. "Now every day I'm calling out plays in practice to the point where linebacker Vincent Rey says, ‘Man, you must have a cheat sheet in your pocket!' When you're young, you take a lot of stuff for granted. There was a point in my life where I wasn't even thinking about a future even existing like this for me. When you're the laughingstock of the league, and you just got kicked out of the league, those are some dark times. But I always told myself, ‘I'm gonna get the last laugh.' Every day I still make a point to visit my past, all the dumb s--- I did. I have to.
"It's easy to slip up. If you don't remind yourself, you're gonna wind up right back in those situations."