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American Football: Booker lashes out at bears for trade

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posted on Aug, 22 2004 @ 12:12 PM
The best trades in any sport, it has often been said, are the ones in which all parties involved are happy with the results.

Which, if the old adage is correct, makes the Saturday night blockbuster between the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins something less than perfect. The dissenting voice in the megaswap belonged to wide receiver Marty Booker, who isn't upset about heading to warmer climes, but isn't exactly thrilled with his former employer.

"I am hurt," Booker said of the deal. "This is where I signed a long-term contract. I gave so much to this franchise. The Bears have done so much for me. All of a sudden, they don't want me. I am stunned."

It probably wasn't so much that the Bears didn't want Booker any longer but that a team that finished last in the NFL in sacks in 2003 needed holdout Miami defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. You don't land a proven player at a high premium position without sacrificing something of value in return.

Parting with the popular and productive Booker likely was made more palatable by the fact that Bears coaches were convinced he wasn't really the optimum fit for the West Coast style design that first-year offensive coordinator Terry Shea has installed. The word was that the Bears didn't feel Booker, despite a resume that includes two Pro Bowl berths, possessed the quickness to be a difference-maker.

Booker, 28, took issue with that notion, along with the perception that he is a possession receiver and not a deep threat. Of more concern to the five-year veteran, however, was the out-of-the-blue element to the trade.

Although he conceded he knew the Bears were trying hard to land Ogunleye to bolster a feeble pass rush, Booker had no clue he was part of trade talks until rookie head coach Lovie Smith knocked on the door of his hotel room on Saturday afternoon. That was followed by a visit from Bears general manager Jerry Angelo.

It is said that Booker lashed out at Angelo in particular.

"I didn't see it coming at all," Booker said. "I was sitting there getting ready to play in [a preseason] game, and then they came down to my room and told me I was traded. I mean, it was unbelievable." Perhaps taking a verbal swipe at Smith, whose NFL background as a coach is primarily on the defensive side, Booker noted: "The only thing that they are concerned about is their defense."

That may not be completely true, but it is undeniable that the departure of Booker, the fifth-leading receiver in franchise history, leaves the Bears with a wide receiver corps that might be rife with potential but has precious little production.

Former first-round choice David Terrell is said to have flourished in camp in Shea's new system, but it's not hard to forget the former Michigan standout was believed a possible salary cap casualty this spring and has just 15 starts and eight touchdowns in three years. A pair of second-year wideouts being counted on heavily, Justin Gage and Bobby Wade, combined for only 29 catches, 475 yards and two touchdowns as rookies.

Essentially the Bears have excised the one veteran receiver who might have been able to bail second-year quarterback Rex Grossman out of some tough spots. Whatever warts the new coaching staff saw on Booker, he was a proven go-to guy who posted solid numbers despite having played with seven different starting quarterbacks in five seasons.

In the end, as deadlines came and went in the Saturday negotiations with Ogunleye, the time frame didn't really matter. Once word leaked that the trade had been agreed to in principle, certainly when Booker was informed he was part of the Bears' package being sent to Miami, the deal had to be consummated.

And that's because Booker, peeved at Chicago officials, was adamant about not going back to the Bears if the trade disintegrated.

"How could I go back to play for a team, a staff, and management that didn't want me, that wanted to get rid of me?" Booker said. "How could I feel comfortable and dedicate myself to people like that?"

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