Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Zach Orr returning to NFL
Zach Orr was a second-team All-Pro linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens before his shock retirement but now he is making a comeback.
It’s rare for an NFL player to announce their retirement after coming off a tremendous season at the age of 24, but a congenital neck/spine condition forced Orr to hang up his boots back in January. On Wednesday, he stated his intention to return.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo explained that while Orr stepped away from the game, the Ravens didn’t place a tender on him, he did not officially file his retirement papers, and therefore he will be free to sign with any team.
The former Baltimore Raven joined Good Morning Football to announce his decision, and explain his motivation.
“It’s been an up-and-down journey. When I first found out the news, it was definitely devastating and shocking, not only for me, but for my friends and family and everybody who knew me.
“But just being around and doing a lot of other things, a lot of people, a lot of former players were telling me that you might want to check it out because of a lot of crazy things can happen
“I had my mind made up, the doctors told me I was done and it was a serious issue but I just kept hearing that from multiple people and some were telling me to just check out and seek out multiple opinions.”
Orr, now 25, joined the Baltimore Ravens as an unrestricted free agent in 2014. He didn’t make a tremendous impact early in his career, but last year he racked up 132 tackles, three interceptions and a forced fumble.
“I came to find out that my condition, it is rare. 0.01 per cent of people have what I have, but there’s no actual evidence or facts that I’m at a higher risk than any other player. It’s actually been documented that a college player who had the exact same thing that I have returned to play with no problems.
“My range of motion, my muscle functions, everything is normal and I’m feeling good and ready to go. I’m willing to sit down and talk to whoever about whatever, and it’s just a really exciting time that there is a chance for me to come back, and I’m ready to do that.”
After only a few months away from the game, Orr is buzzing to get back on the field in 2017.
“Yeah, I’m really excited. It’s really exciting because I love the game of football. It means the most to me, and it’s not who I am, but it’s something that I love to do. It’s something I’ve been doing for my whole life and something that I continue to have a deep passion for.
“My family knows that and they are excited about it, and I’m excited as well, so I’m glad to see what the future holds.”
Naturally, there will be question marks about his physical capabilities and teams will wonder if they can trust him not to leave the game again. He explained that his body is ready for a return to the league, and it’s up to teams to put him to the test.
“Medically, I just need to get cleared by a team doctor. Any team, any doctors that want to look at my situation and do their own research and sit down with me, that’s all I’m waiting on. But as far as me physically and mentally, I’m ready to go.
“I’m feeling better than ever, I’m feeling like I have in past off-seasons, and I’m ready to go.
Assuming he does pass the physical tests of teams around the league, he’ll be in high demand but where might he end up?
Orr has maintained a good relationship with the Ravens but it’s not a sure thing the team attempt to bring him back.
As much as he contributed last year, the team has tabbed 2016 second-round draft pick Kamalei Correa to take over.
Despite a disappointing rookie campaign, Correa has impressed this off-season.
The Lions are expected to be Orr’s first visit as a free agent, and they are a team in desperate need of help.
Although rookie Jarrad Davis was drafted to start in the middle, Orr would be an immediate upgrade on the weakside for Detroit.
It has been reported that he has received interest from nearly half the league but according to Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oakland wasn’t one of them.
The fact he is coveted this much might result in a bidding war for his name and the Raiders could do with some help.
AFC West rival Kansas City could be a logical spot, with Derrick Johnson turning 35 this year while both the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints have outstanding attacks, but fall behind on the defensive side of the ball.
Chasing Orr would bolster both of their linebacker groups, and give them more of a chance to get back into the playoffs after missing out in 2016.
If he’s healthy, Orr will have his pick of the bunch.