When he steps off the bus and onto the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot Sunday, Brandon Carr will know exactly where he is — the smells, the sights, the sounds will all hit him at once, he predicts.
But how will he feel?
“I don’t know how it’s going to feel,” he said. “I haven’t been back to Kansas City since I left to come here after the free-agency process. I may have some goose bumps and chills going in there.”
How could he not?
Kansas City was his first NFL home. Before he signed a $50.1 million contract to join the Dallas Cowboys, the Chiefs gave him his chance. He rose from fifth-round draft pick to starter with them. He helped them reach the playoffs. The “Sea of Red” loved him.
So the memories are good.
But there is pain, also, for him in Kansas City. Last year, a former teammate committed a murder, then suicide. Carr was close to Jovan Belcher, and Belcher’s girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins.
The funerals were in New York and Texas.
Carr had no reason to return to Kansas City, Mo. He means it when he says he has not been back.
He really does not know how he will feel.
“I always have different feelings in different cities that we go to that have a connection,” he said. “It may not be emotional. But I know there’s going to be a lot of flashbacks and just memories of different places and probably just the smell of being around it and things like that.
“But you know, my four years there were great. It was great for me. I was just ready to move on and enjoy Dallas.”
Dallas has enjoyed him.
Carr has started every game at cornerback for the Cowboys and has delivered four interceptions, all game-changers or game-winners, including last week’s 49-yard return for a touchdown against the New York Giants.
Last year, a week after the Kansas City deaths — and one day after the death of Cowboys teammate Jerry Brown — Carr had an interception in Cincinnati to turn the game in the Cowboys’ favor.
The Cowboys know what to expect from Carr. He is steady, tough and reliable. Looking back, no one is surprised he remained the same player in those two tough weeks last December.
“No, I didn’t,” secondary coach Jerome Henderson said when asked whether he had to take special interest in Carr’s emotional health at that time. “I acted in a professional way and expected him to do that, and he did.
“Had he not, I would have then had to keep a close eye on him and pay closer attention to him. It never happened, and so I never changed how I treated him or worked with him.”
The Cowboys suspected that was in Carr’s nature. They figured it took unusual maturity, drive, level-headedness — whatever it is — for a fifth-round pick from a small school to become a starter as a rookie, never miss a game and be effective, also. He was their No. 1 free-agent target in spring 2012.
“Nothing was given to him,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He earned it over three or four years playing up there as a darn good player, and we thought that he grew a lot over the course of his career there but was one of those guys that was going to achieve and overachieve and take full advantage of the chances that he got.
“And we think that’s an appealing thing, as opposed to a guy who maybe came in given a lot of different things and maybe hadn’t lived up to his potential.”
The events of last December revealed a personal side of Carr that reinforced the Cowboys’ faith in him.
“Last year was a tough year, with the loss of his teammate in Kansas City, the loss of a teammate here, and things he was dealing with — his own family’s health,” Henderson said. “It was a really tough year. But he stayed the course and fought through it.
“And the thing I appreciated about him as a position coach was, he showed up every day and was ready to work and did his job and did his job well.”
Carr has one more emotional hurdle Sunday. He will play in the city where he got his start, trying to beat old friends, and put aside memories he will always carry.
“I had a great four years in Kansas City, but Dallas was the team that showed they had faith in my ability and they wanted me in the free-agency process,” he said.
“So far it’s worked out pretty good. I don’t look back at things. I still have memories of Kansas City, but I have a lot of great memories in Dallas as well, and I’m having fun right now.”