QB character

In addition to the physical qualities he displayed on the field during the past month, Ken Dorsey also reminded us what it's like to deal with a quarterback who's comfortable in the demanding spotlight that role entails. Gregarious and thoughtful, Dorsey had that look of excitement when engaged in conversation and he never was short with an answer or insight. That's not exactly Tim Rattay's style, though the team's designated starter has displayed some signs that he's working on it.

During his month as the team's No. 1 quarterback last year in place of an injured Jeff Garcia, Rattay never once looked as comfortable answering questions as Dorsey did during the team's minicamp sessions this spring. Though congenial, Rattay gave the same halting answers after the team's first spring practice in May, which is understandable because hours earlier he had suffered a groin injury that at the time he had no idea was as serious as it turned out to be.

But Rattay, who's expected to be back before the microphones and cameras when training camp begins - the duty and obligation of any team's starting quarterback - opened up a bit with a few uncharacteristic quips when he talked with some of the team's beat reporters for the first time since his surgery earlier this month.

When talking about being ready for the opening of summer camp, Rattay said, "that's about nine weeks from now - or eight weeks and four days from now, not that I'm counting." Later, when talking about what he does at practice during his recovery, Rattay said, "I'm watching and learning just like those guys. But it sucks. It's like sitting in a golf cart and not golfing."

Those are just little things, to be sure, but if you've ever listened to Rattay at length, they are solid indications he is starting to loosen up as a chatty quarterback and spokesman, which are some of the duties - or burdens, depending on one's perspective - that go along with the job.

But he's still a long ways from Dorsey, who excited everybody not only with the ability he displayed on the field, but also the congenial attitude and knowledgeable opinions he had off it.

Dorsey obviously had a lot of practice before a big spotlight in college, where he was 38-2 in four years as a starter at Miami and led the Hurricanes to one national championship and to the brink of another.

But there was no easing into the role this spring for Dorsey. When he took over the conduct and speaking duties of the No. 1 QB, he was ready. And ready with character.

He offered a lot of trained responses, to be sure, and tackled a lot of football questions by answering with a team mentality instead of an individual take. But he did not back down from any subject, even some of his vulnerabilities and insecurities.

When talking about his great predecessors at the position in San Francisco, Dorsey was asked if he'd ever called Joe Montana for advice. "No, I don't have his phone number, unfortunately," Dorsey said. When asked if he'd like to talk to Joe, Dorsey responded, "I wouldn't turn the opportunity down, that's for sure. I definitely wouldn't mind saying hello."

Joe, give this kid a call right away!

The topic of Steve Young also came up in the conversation, and Dorsey talked about meeting Young for the first time a few weeks earlier at a Nike camp. "I talked to Steve for a little bit," Dorsey said. "I was sweating bullets, nervous. He came out, and I almost passed out."

A quarterback's personality off the field doesn't mean anything if he can't get the job done on it. But observing the personal side of Dorsey was a pleasant surprise. If and when his chance comes to be San Francisco's No. 1 quarterback - and not just in a temporary role - it's good to know how he will handle that aspect of the role.

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