Daily Herald
For Booker, any QB will do
Bear familiar with unfamiliar signalcallers
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 5/27/2008 12:05 AM

If anyone is immune to the possible dysfunctional effects of the Bears' quarterback competition between Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, it would be Marty Booker.

And that's a good thing since he's expected to be the go-to guy for whichever quarterback wins the job.

Booker has made a successful career of adapting to whatever situation he has been thrown into, regardless of who's throwing the football.

Since 1999, Booker's first season with the Bears -- when he had to adjust to Shane Matthews, Cade McNown and Jim Miller all starting games -- playing with multiple quarterbacks has been routine for Booker.

In all, on NFL fields over nine seasons he has played catch with 17 different quarterbacks, some of them no longer in the NFL.

In 2001, though, when it was just Miller and Matthews throwing the ball, Booker caught a team-record 100 passes.

The following season, Miller, Chris Chandler, Henry Burris and Cory Sauter all took snaps for a 4-12 team that didn't have much to brag about other than Booker's 97 catches.

And before he eventually left for the Miami Dolphins and a bigger payday, Booker snared a TD reception from Rex Grossman, which was the rookie's first TD toss in 2003.

The revolving door at quarterback spun even more quickly in Miami, where the Dolphins used nine different quarterbacks over the last four seasons.

So Booker isn't stressing over a possible quarterback controversy when the Bears open their three-day minicamp Friday.

"Dude, in my career I've had like almost 20 different quarterbacks (17 actually), so as far as adjusting to anybody, that's not a problem," he said. "That's the least of everything."

Booker was the Dolphins' leading receiver last season with 50 catches for 556 yards. Although he was overshadowed by others at times, Booker shared the go-to role with wideout Chris Chambers and tight end Randy McMichael during his first three seasons in Miami.

Although he will turn 32 during training camp this summer, Booker returns to the Bears in the same capacity in which he left -- as the No. 1 receiver.

The Bears lost their top two receivers in the off-season when Bernard Berrian signed with the Minnesota Vikings and Muhsin Muhammad was released to loosen up the salary cap. Booker was signed to help fill the void.

"Whenever you lose a playmaker it's a little unsettling," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "But getting Marty Booker back will help."

While the name is the same, there's no denying that Booker is joining a new Bears team. The only current teammates Booker played with in his first go-round are Olin Kreutz, Pat Mannelly, Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Alex Brown, Mike Brown, Desmond Clark, Grossman, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Brad Maynard, Jason McKie, Terrence Metcalf and Adrian Peterson.

But that's not a problem as Booker sees it.

"It's no different, it's just all this traffic and construction (around Halas Hall)," he said. "It's just a matter of getting in here and learning the plays and getting the playbook down and getting a feel for my new teammates.

"Whatever's asked of me, I'm ready to do it. I feel good, I'm in good shape and just ready to go."

That doesn't mean Booker expects to duplicate his back-to-back seasons of 2000 and '01, when he caught 197 passes for 2,260 yards.

"That was back in my younger days," he said with a laugh. "But if the ball comes my way, I have to catch it, so I'm going to take advantage of every opportunity."

The 6-foot, 210-pound, 10th-year veteran may be a tenth of a second slower in the 40-yard dash, but he has picked up enough knowledge and experience along the way to compensate.

"You learn little stuff," Booker said. "You learn the different things to make up for the stuff you lost, like speed and physical strength and all that stuff. You get a little bit of the veteran savvy going on. You have to maneuver a certain way; you have to give a little bit of wiggle here and there. There's always things you can come up with that can take the place of all the stuff you lost.

"For me, I think I've still got everything, so I don't have to worry about that yet."

Quarterbacks who've thrown to Marty Booker

Year Team NFL quarterbacks

1999 Bears Jim Miller, Shane Matthews, Cade McNown

2000 Bears Miller, Matthews, McNown

2001 Bears Miller, Matthews

2002 Bears Miller, Chris Chandler, Henry Burris, Cory Sauter

2003 Bears Chandler, Rex Grossman, Kordell Stewart

2004 Dolphins A.J. Feeley, Jay Fiedler, Sage Rosenfels

2005 Dolphins Gus Frerotte, Rosenfels

2006 Dolphins Daunte Culpepper, Joey Harrington, Cleo Lemon

2007 Dolphins John Beck, Trent Green, Lemon

2008 Bears ??? (Grossman, Kyle Orton, Caleb Hanie, Nick

Hill currently on roster)