Frustrated by the pace of rehabilitation after his third career hip surgery, Brandon Marshall returned from Florida before training camp last month and sought the counsel of Mark Turner, a chiropractor who runs the Turner Pain and Wellness Center in Aurora.
"Brandon just said to me, 'How could this be? What's going on?''' Turner said Wednesday in a phone interview. "He had worked his butt off but just didn't have all the information he needed. It's not that the surgeon didn't do a good job. But any time a joint has surgery done to it, you have to have the appropriate rehab to stabilize that joint.''
Marshall trusted Turner based on regular meetings at the facility since the men met at the beginning of the 2012 season. They quickly developed such a good rapport that Turner routinely saw Marshall late Sunday nights after Bears games, home and away, either receiving treatment or picking up food the center's nutritionists prepared.
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A former college football teammate of John Harbaugh at Miami (Ohio), Turner recently started Injury Armored, a high-tech testing company he claims arms athletes with information to aid in preventing injury or hastening recovery. According to Turner, a 45-minute risk-assessment test combines traditional static and orthopedic exams for atrophy or flexibility with computerized muscle measurements of body-strength ratio and symmetry. If one leg is significantly weaker than the other, for example, detecting the imbalance can put the athlete on a quicker course back to the field. The procedure focuses on causes rather than symptoms.
"We identify the potential risk of injury and give athletes appropriate exercise to fill in deficits or gaps,'' said Turner, whose growing client list includes Olympians and the Illinois football program. "So Brandon came to me and asked, 'Can you Injury Armor me?' It would have been better sooner, but later is better than never. We were able to identify why he had the issues and now we're trying to fill the gaps in.''
Citing Marshall's privacy, Turner declined to discuss specifically what the tests revealed other than confirm Marshall was correct in saying something didn't seem right about his hip. Even Marshall conceded in a brief phone conversation Wednesday with a Tribune reporter that, "My hip is not recovered the way I need it.''
"Hip is structurally great,'' Marshall tweeted Wednesday. "All about recovery.''
Marshall had returned to South Florida in June after the Bears' minicamp to train at Fit Speed, the company he invested in with Matt Gates, where another source said the elite athlete privately wondered if he had pushed his hip too hard. Too much training can be worse for a rehabilitating player than too little.
"Brandon didn't know he had a deficit because nobody is computer-muscle testing,'' Turner said. "It's such a new thing. Training staffs do a great job but we're able to do more with the approach we have patented to identify that risk.''
Upon Marshall's return to Chicago, his desire to seek the latest, cutting-edge data led him back to Turner's center in Aurora, where he has recruited several Bears teammates, including Jay Cutler. They typically seek either testing, treatment or nutritional advice and Turner estimated the center's dietitian regularly ships special-order food to 18 Bears players.
"The new regime of Bears coach (Marc) Trestman is really trying to elongate these players' careers and find different ways to do it,'' Turner said. "If you can save Brandon Marshall from (missing) one game, not only can it help him financially but he's a big difference. Brandon needs to do well mentally too. He does better the better he is. It's important to keep him at the top of his game.''
A convenient narrative emerged Wednesday when the Bears oddly excused Marshall for the weekend, a day after the wide receiver's cryptic comments about the condition of his hip and his role in the offense. Marshall worrying about whether he will see the ball a lot is like a lifeguard wondering if he will get enough sun. Marshall always can ask Jerry Rice how he fared with the 49ers in 1995, the first season using Trestman's scheme in San Francisco: Rice set an NFL record with 1,848 reception yards.
Both the Bears and Marshall insisted his time off had been pre-arranged but, given Marshall's tumultuous history, neither explanation passed the smell test. In the end, concerns about a snit are moot. The Bears would love to enter the weekend worried more about Marshall mentally than physically. If healthy for 16 games, Marshall will make the diva act the Bears knew they were getting worth every emotional ebb and flow.
But suddenly that looks like a big if — and what's going on with Marshall's hip warrants more worry than what's going on in his head.