Lorenzo Booker is carving out a role for himself in the Vikings offense, a long way from where he was a year ago.
For most of last season, Booker didn't even have any NFL teammates. Instead, he opted to take a job in the United Football League last fall before buying his way out of that league in December when the Vikings came calling.
Right now, Booker is stuck behind Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart on the depth chart, but he displayed impressive quickness and moves in the Vikings' preseason opener on his way to nine rushes for 47 yards, both game highs.
"The biggest thing here is just knowing that I have a specific role and knowing it is catered to what I do best," said Booker, who appears likely to see most of his action as a third-down back. "I think that's the biggest thing with a lot of players, most of the players in the NFL, is just being able to have a coach recognize what you do."
The Vikings talked to Booker about being a change-of-pace back last year, and he said that role is carrying over this year. The difference is this year he has a full training camp to prepare in Bill Musgrave's offense.
"He's a super quick guy. He has great hands catching the football out of the backfield, can make people miss," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "Good change of pace to what Adrian and Toby are able to do. He's a guy you can feature in certain sets out of the backfield. He proved that a year ago with some of the explosive plays he made for us, so it was good to see him come in and run in some two-back situations."
Last year, there was some familiarity of the offense for Booker, as he saw action in 10 games in 2008 with the Philadelphia Eagles, who were running a similar offense to what the Vikings employed last year.
In some ways, there are similarities between Booker's situation now and what he experienced in Philadelphia. With the Eagles, he was behind Brian Westbrook on the depth chart. In Minnesota, he has Adrian Peterson in front of him. This time, however, he brings different skills than the star in front of him.
"If you ask me, in Philadelphia I was behind one of the greatest all-purpose running backs ever. Again here, I have an ability that is different from AP and different from Toby," Booker said. "What can I say [in Philadelphia]? Well, I do this and Brian can't? It was only, OK, we'll use him here or there. … Minnesota was a place I wanted to be previous to going there because of the situation.
"It just ended up being a perfect situation for me and for them."
Now Booker is left to prove himself to new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Booker's fumble that led to a Seahawks touchdown didn't help his cause. And last year Booker fumbled once in five touches (all receptions).
"It was just the first game getting stuff out. I'm not a fumbler," Booker said. "It wasn't anything that the defense did. Not to take credit from them, they made the play. But it was me thinking too much about making a play and not putting enough emphasis on the main thing, which is fundamentals. Obviously it didn't stop me from taking chances or making plays, it just obviously brought my focus back to where it should have started in the first place. But that's what the preseason is for, to get that out of the system."
Booker and the others are still getting accustomed to that system, but for now it appears he has found a place on the roster and a role that helps accentuate different skills than the Vikings' top two running backs.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Booker carving out his role
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