In May, at the NFL Players Association Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles, Booker raised a few eyebrows in the rookies-should-be-seen-and-not-heard crowd when he made it clear that he had no intention of being a typical first-year player. He said in an interview, “I’m not there to carry pads. I’m there to take someone’s job."
On Tuesday, just before the Broncos rookies' second practice of the week, that snippet of bravado brought a grin to Booker’s face.
“I said it at the Rookie Premiere, so a couple minutes later, my phone was blowing up," Booker said Tuesday. “I thought I was going to get a lot of stuff when I came back here from the vets, but they did not at all. They pretty much liked it and were telling me that that is what I have to do when I am a rookie. The [Broncos players] were basically saying, ‘What else are you supposed to say?’ I’m not going to downplay myself and my ability on the field."
Booker, who was the Broncos’ fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, figures to push for playing time quickly, given his size (219 pounds), vision as a runner and work as a receiver out of the backfield (he had 80 receptions in two seasons at Utah). He rushed for 1,512 yards for the Utes in 2014 with 43 receptions and had 1,262 yards in 10 games last season before he suffered a torn meniscus in his knee to end his season.
He had surgeries in November and February to repair the knee and did not participate in drills at the NFL's scouting combine. The Broncos held him out of most of their team drills in the offseason program but saw enough for coach Gary Kubiak to declare that Booker would have a role in the offense.
For his part, C.J. Anderson, who has worked as the No. 1 back throughout the offseason program and will open training camp in that role, has said, “What do you expect him to say? I said the same thing. I have confidence in what I can do."
Kubiak praised Booker’s desire to play, saying, “You want all of [the players] to think that way."
Booker remained at the team’s complex in recent weeks to rehab his knee with the team’s medical staff. He said he believes he’ll be ready to compete quickly and if not when the team’s full practices get underway Thursday -- the team’s veteran players report Wednesday -- then soon after that.
“It was definitely an investment for me over this whole portion when I got up here," Booker said. “I actually stayed here throughout the summer break when all the guys went home. I was just rehabbing. Like I said, it was an investment for me to do that so I can get back on the field quicker and go out and compete with the rest of the guys.”
On his potential to play, Booker said, “I’m really confident about it. I’m just here to compete and do what I need to do for the team so I can get out and play a lot this year. I think I’m relied on heavily by some of the coaches to exceed expectations, and I believe that I will do so."