CHICAGO — Back to being a Pro Bowl grump Wednesday at Halas Hall, Brian Urlacher refused to clarify the mysterious circumstances surrounding treatment of his injured left knee.
Urlacher's reaction provided the least surprising aspect of a story that cannot go away fast enough for the Bears. Only coach Lovie Smith's defensiveness was easier to predict.
“Once you come up with someone that says this happened, then I can respond to it,” Smith snapped to reporters. “I know right now Brian Urlacher is here, getting healthy every day. And I don't see what else we need to talk about.”
A Tribune report Wednesday revealed Urlacher went to Germany earlier this summer to seek an alternative, noninvasive procedure known as Regenokine therapy at Dr. Peter Wehling's facility.
Wehling collaborated on the creation of the treatment with partner Chris Renna, a renowned preventive medicine specialist in Santa Monica, Calif., who was Wehling's co-author for “The End of Pain.”
Renna gained unwelcome notoriety eight years ago when the San Jose Mercury News reported he supplied BALCO founder Victor Conte with undetectable testosterone cream. Former NFL player Bill Romanowski reportedly introduced Renna to Conte.
It really doesn't matter that Renna never was accused of violating federal drug laws or regulations. Or that Renna's connection to Conte has nothing to do with Urlacher. It doesn't matter if the International Olympic Committee deemed Regenokine a nonperformance enhancing treatment and pro sports leagues accept the revolutionary method as legitimate.
Fair or not, the name Conte, a symbol of sports stain, connected even remotely with any superstar requires explanation. In a sporting world plagued by doping where perception blurs reality, the Bears franchise player linked to blood-spinning therapy that isn't FDA-approved merits more than a unified dismissive front.
The Bears and Urlacher could elaborate or educate instead of obfuscate. The less they say, the more curiosity piques. That's human nature. That's Chicago. Concealing information about Urlacher's European vacation created an air of mystery when transparency could have kept preseason focus on what looks like a playoff team.
We understand and respect why Urlacher would seek a nonsurgical solution on the other side of the Atlantic that worked for stars like Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez. Even if Urlacher made the trip independently, it shows how badly the 34-year-old wants to play. But playing coy only further mystifies the process.
In contrast, Renna endorsed Regenokine so openly and enthusiastically Wednesday that I considered checking airfares to L.A. by the time we hung up. Renna fondly recalled undergoing successful treatment on his joints before getting licensed to offer it in 2010 because, “For seven years I kept referring patients to Germany and finally I said, ‘I'd like to bring this to the U.S.,”' he recalled.
Speaking generally about the controversial procedure and carefully avoiding any acknowledgment Urlacher tried it, Renna rattled off impressive statistics: Regenokine diminishes pain by up to 80 percent for three years; infection risks associated with surgery decrease to one in 280,000.
Optimistically, Renna predicted “within a couple of years” as many as 30 facilities in the U.S. would offer the procedure now available only in Santa Monica, Calif., Dallas and New York. He called the process of extracting natural anti-inflammatory proteins from a shot-glass full of the patient's own blood before re-injecting them into the injured spot after a 24-hour incubation period, “better than arthroscopic surgery or steroids.”
“Testing shows it is the best method to reduce pain, inflammation and stiffness,” Renna said over the phone.
When I asked Renna about Conte, he cited doctor-patient confidentiality but sought to separate any past affiliations with future progress of Regenokine.
“I have no comment (on Conte) but have spent my career helping everyone as much as I can,” Renna said. “I have not discriminated based on what others thought of them or what they did outside the relationship I had. I have a clean record and a clear conscience from helping everyone to the best of my ability.”
I wondered if Regenokine might help football players such as Urlacher less than other athletes because of the increased force of collisions.
“No, probably the opposite,” Renna said. “It is a molecular treatment. The molecular mechanism of trauma is inflammatory by nature and Regenokine is a potent anti-inflammatory.”
Did the treatment work for Urlacher before he tweaked the knee early in camp? Did Urlacher repeat the process before finally having arthroscopic surgery? Did he research his medical team? What prompted arthroscopic surgery Aug. 14 instead of sooner — or later?
Is this any of our business?
Urlacher and the Bears say no.
Eventually they plan to address all questions on the field, the destination for Urlacher that Bears fans care about most.
Distributed by MCT Information Services