Free agent linebacker Zachary Orr, who played with the Baltimore Ravens for the past three seasons, announced his retirement for the second time in a piece published in The Players’ Tribune on Friday.
Orr had initially announced his retirement in January at 24, less than a month after suffering a herniated disc against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas Day. Weeks later, doctors discovered that Orr’s C-1 vertebrae was only 80 percent developed and with slight splits on both ends, making it prone to “explode,” as it was bluntly put.
The undrafted free agent out of North Texas sought other opinions after talking to former Baylor quarterback Seth Russell, who also had experience with a neck injury. Per his Players’ Tribune post, Orr spoke with a doctor recommended by Russell who said Orr could play if he wanted to because his body produced “an extra cushion of tissue around the bone to protect it.” Another doctor had agreed with this assessment. So, in June, Orr decided he wanted to make a comeback.
Orr said he spoke to 17 teams — six in person and 11 over the phone — and all of them were concerned either with his C-1 vertebrae or his herniated disc.
Orr’s father, Terry, won two Super Bowls as a tight end for the Washington Redskins from 1986-1993 (he also played two games with the San Diego Chargers in 1990 after being released by the Redskins).
The elder Orr never wanted Zachary or his three brothers to play football. Terry Orr’s career ended after breaking four vertebrae in his upper back, and it now locks up when it gets cold, confining him to either his bed or couch when winter arrives.
Now, after three seasons of football and having received multiple medical opinions, Orr has again decided to call it a career.
Instead of resenting the Ravens or their doctors, though, Orr credited them for putting him and his future first.
“They put my health and my well being — they put me as a person — ahead of their football interests, and I appreciated that,” Orr wrote. “That’s why, to me, Baltimore is a first-class organization.”
Orr said he will miss seeing the throngs of fans donned in purple throughout Baltimore and the environment M&T Bank Stadium provided.
“I’m one of you guys now,” Orr said. “I’m joining the flock. I’ll be wearing my purple on Friday and rooting the Ravens to victory on Sunday.”