Booker puts Bears behind him
By Ed Gray
Aug 24, 2004
DAVIE (sun-sentinel.com) - Marty Booker received a clean bill of health Monday.
Now team management hopes he can inject new life into what has been a sickly offense during the exhibition season for the Dolphins.
While that may be a tall order, Dolphins General Manager Rick Spielman expressed satisfaction that his team received "equal quality" in the trade that send holdout defensive end Adewale Ogunleye to the Bears.
"We regard Marty to be equal to a first-round pick and we received a third-round pick," said Spielman, referring to the compensation the Dolphins would have received had Ogunleye signed with another team as a restricted free agent.
Ogunleye, the Dolphins' MVP last season after recording an AFC-leading 15 sacks, also passed his physical, in Chicago, and signed a six year, $33.4 million contract that includes a $15 million bonus.
Booker, named a Bears captain the day before deal came down Saturday, said he has recovered from the shock of being traded.
"Chicago's in the past -- Miami's my new team," said the 28-year-old receiver, who signed a seven-year deal worth $28 million with Chicago in 2002. "I'm looking forward to getting started."
Booker caught 315 passes for 3,684 yards and 23 touchdowns in his five years with the Bears after being drafted by Chicago in the third round of the 1999 draft. The Northeast Louisiana product had career back-to-back years starting in 2001, when he caught 100 passes for 1,071 yards and eight touchdowns. He followed that up in 2002 with a Pro Bowl appearance after amassing 1,189 yards on 97 catches, including six TDs.
The Dolphins can expect a leaner Booker than the one who caught 52 passes for 715 yards and four touchdowns while missing three games with an ankle injury last year.
"I just wanted to get back to where I was in the 2001 and 2002 season," said the 207-pound Booker. He was listed at 212 in 2003. "I felt real comfortable with my weight down, but after taking a lot of hits and being beat up across the middle, I wanted to put on a little weight last year to absorb the blows. I think it cost me a couple injuries. I just wanted to get my weight down so I can play fast and be an explosive receiver."
Booker is expected to complement Chris Chambers to bolster the banged-up receiving corps that lost David Boston with a season-ending injury during camp.
He wore No. 86 in practice Monday and is scheduled to practice today and play Saturday at Tampa Bay.
"A good thing about it is we were going through the same system as here, so I was able to get a jump start in March, learning it in Chicago," said Booker. "There are little differences here and there, but we'll get that ironed out and hopefully, I'll be ready soon."
Safety Antuan Edwards, who signed with the Dolphins as an unrestricted free agent during the offseason, saw a lot of Booker while defending against him during his five years with Green Bay.
"He was a good player, a top receiver," Edwards said. "That's a guy we had to game plan when he was with the Bears. I'm pleased to have him here. Marty was a guy who could get open. To me, they were a West Coast-type offense. He always got the ball quick and was able to make plays after he caught the ball. That's the big thing for us: when he gets the ball, he makes things happen."
Quarterback Jay Fiedler is aware of the success Booker enjoyed with the Bears, but isn't familiar with his receiving strengths.
"I know he's had some good years in the past," Fiedler said. "It'll be nice to get another receiver in here and get another guy to work with and expand on the depth at that position."
If Booker is half the receiver Spielman said he is, he will be a welcome addition to the offense.
"He is not a possession receiver as everbody classifies him," said Spielman, who also said he will continue to monitor running backs as they become available. "As you can see, [Booker] has production down the field. To me, he has very similar athletic abilities as Chris Chambers has. He's can make circus-type catches. He has extremely large hands and very soft hands. Out of all the guys that we evaluated, all the other receivers, he had the fewest drops."
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