Zachary Orr Retires Due to Spine Injury After Brief Comeback Attempt

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2017

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 18: Inside linebacker Zach Orr #54 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after making an interception in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Zachary Orr announced Friday he's re-entering retirement after failing to receive medical clearance from 17 NFL teams during his comeback attempt.

Orr posted an article on The Players Tribune detailing his decision to make another effort to play football and his inability to get a "green light" from any team doctors due to a spine injury. So he's decided to give up his dream of getting back on the gridiron.

"Today, I'm officially retiring from professional football … again," he wrote. "And I'm even more at peace this time around because the teams have spoken. If there was any way I could come back, I would. Now, I know that's not possible."

Orr first walked away from football in January because of the congenital back condition. The 25-year-old North Texas product spent the first three seasons of his career with the Baltimore Ravens and told Ryan Mink of the team's official website he was happy the ailment was discovered.

"I'm really just blessed and thankful that we were able to find this problem," Orr said. "The doctors and Ravens medical staff probably ended up saving my life and definitely allowed me to live a normal lifestyle. I'm blessed and thankful that I'm able to walk away from the game in good health."

The Virginia native, who enjoyed a breakout 2016 campaign with 132 combined tackles and three interceptions for Baltimore, started to consider a comeback in June. Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network passed along comments the defender made on Good Morning Football about his diagnosis.

"I had my mind made up. I was like man, the doctors told me I was done. This is a serious issue. So I'm going to leave it alone," Orr said. "But I just kept hearing that from multiple people and some were telling me to just go check out and seek out some more opinions and things like that and come to find out my condition, it is rare—.01 percent of the people have what I have—but there's no actual evidence or facts that I'm at a higher risk than any other player. And it's actually been documented that a college player who had the exact same thing that I have that returned to play with no problems."

His strong performance last season combined with his late decision to take an active part in free agency made him a coveted commodity. Dan Graziano of ESPN noted a quarter of the league's teams reached out to him the same day he publicly declared an end to his short-lived retirement.

Alas, while his on-field production made him an attractive free agent, securing approval from any of the interested teams' medical staffs proved too large of a hurdle in the end.

"Six teams in person, 11 more over the phone—that's 17 teams, more than half the league—and I couldn't get one to give me the green light. Because at the end of the day, my spine was too jacked up," Orr wrote on The Players Tribune. "And no team wants to be the one that has a player die on the field."

He said leading the long-vaunted Ravens defense in tackles last season was a "dream come true," before adding: "I believe everything happens for a reason, and I’m excited for the next chapter of my life, whatever that may bring."