Even before he was ascending through the ranks in Green Bay, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey was cast in the ways of the Packer franchise that visits Arrowhead Stadium tonight for the preseason finale.
As a player with maybe some physical limitations but evidently few psychological boundaries, Dorsey from 1984 to 1988 distinguished himself on special teams, setting a still-standing club record with 35 tackles his rookie year.
His playing career essentially ended with a freak knee injury in warm-ups before the 1989 season opener against Tampa Bay at Lambeau Field.
“They had cut the grass a little longer to slow down certain players, including a speed demon like myself,” he joked this week, smiling and adding that he had simply turned with his knee planted, it buckled, “and you were done.”
As he rehabilitated, Dorsey remembered the words of one of his coaches: “You’re not good enough, really, to play in this game, (and) the moment you quit playing 100 percent, you’ll be done.”
Perceiving himself “a little soft” in his comeback efforts, Dorsey used that clue to cue in to reality.
“I was smart enough to realize that I’d lost it, and it was time to move on,” he said.
Moving on actually meant staying put with the Packers, first as a scout, then as director of college scouting and finally as director of football operations, all interrupted only by 14 months in Seattle in 1999-2000.
Moving on this year meant something considerably more drastic: Becoming the GM of the Chiefs after spending most of the previous 30 years of his 52-year life in Green Bay.
So, a sentimental night awaits Dorsey, no?
Not to hear him tell it.
“The only significance it has is it gives us another opportunity to evaluate players as a fourth preseason game,” he said, adding, “When you play good football teams, it helps you measure where you are as a club.
“It will give me a chance to, you know, visit with some old friends, but besides that, that’s it. I mean I’ve had the greatest nine months in my life just take place here and continue to take place.
“I’d been (in Green Bay) for a long time, but I am also of the belief that you learn from the past, you live in the present and you build for the future. That’s where my mind-set is.”
Most likely, it would seem different to him if it were a regular-season game or at Green Bay.
More likely, Dorsey, consciously or subconsciously, has in mind the lessons of the recent past from the Chiefs:
Predecessor Scott Pioli’s regime was marked by his flaunting and ramrodding through of the “Patriot Way” in which Pioli had been steeped in New England.
That was widely perceived as arrogant from the outset and delusional by the time he was fired after his four teams went 23-41.
Whether it reflects sharp instinct or alert study, Dorsey knows to avoid going remotely near such territory, even in the innocent context of being asked about it as his team is taking on the Packers.
Asked how he was shaped by the organization, for instance, he began, “As a person and professionally, my principles and standards are high.”
Then he promptly funneled his answer toward the here and now, talking about how the “cultural beliefs that helped shape me professionally are in the same value structure as (those of) the Kansas City Chiefs.”
And so he proceeded to talk about the Chiefs.
Just like when he was asked if there were similarities between Green Bay and Kansas City.
“Absolutely. In the people. It’s the Midwest. Work ethic is huge. Principle is big. Those traditional Midwest values that I have grown to love and respect,” he said before somewhat straying with his next words. “And I’ve always said, ‘If there’s a chance that you turn down ‘X’ amount of jobs for one job, it’s here.’ ”
Before turning his tune to the Chiefs again, at least Dorsey acknowledged that it was no easy thing to leave Green Bay for Kansas City — which is where he met his wife, Patricia, who went to Kansas as an undergraduate and to law school at Washburn.
“It was one of the hardest things (to do) in my life,” he said, “but once I knew that my wife was at peace with it, I would be at peace with it.
“The challenge has been everything I thought it would be and more. Anytime you can get with one of the, I think, top organizations in professional football (and) get re-established with a head coach like Andy Reid.”
So deft and thorough was Dorsey’s discretion that on Wednesday it seemed worth trying to extract some sense of where he is coming from regarding his history with the Packers, where he was part of a group that made 15 playoff appearances and won two Super Bowls in 21 years.
Only then did he gush.
“I have the utmost respect for that organization, and I have the utmost respect for everybody in that organization,” he said. “These are lifelong friends that I do have, OK? But I accepted this challenge nine months ago, and that’s my challenge in life right now.
“It just so happened that organization basically shaped my professional beliefs and principles to carry me to this next job, and that’s how I’m looking at it. And I’m not looking back. I’m going to take everything I’ve learned and move forward.
“That’s where I’m coming from. I love those guys.”
But it’s Kansas City that matters now.
And making the Chiefs Way mean something again, not trying to transplant or recycle or insinuate another brand even if it’s the one he was branded by.