OWINGS MILLS, MD – After just three seasons in the NFL, Ravens inside linebacker Zachary Orr is retiring at 24-years-old due to a serious neck injury.
On Friday, Orr addressed the Ravens media in Owings Mills alongside head coach John Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Dean Pees and general manager Ozzie Newsome. Orr revealed that he is retiring after suffering a herniated disk in his neck on Christmas Day against the Steelers. Further tests revealed that Orr has a congenital spine condition that less than 1% of the population is affected by. The top of Orr’s spine is not fully formed, and that would put him at risk if he were to continue playing contact sports.
“I’m kind of forced to walk away from the game of football,” Orr said on Friday. “My hands are tied. I would not be able to pass a physical [with the condition].”
Orr, who was an undrafted free agent out of North Texas when he signed with the Ravens in 2014, led the team in tackles in 2016 with 132 (91 solo). He also finished the season with three interceptions and a forced fumble.
The Ravens have had a knack of finding successful inside linebackers were not drafted. Bart Scott and Darnell Ellerbee are the two biggest names in that group, but Orr looked to be well on his way of having a successful career in what would have been his contract year next season. He mainly played special teams his rookie year, but in 2015 the Ravens’ coaching staff gave Orr more playing time during the second half of the season with the aging of veteran linebacker Daryl Smith. Smith was released after the season, which opened up the door for Orr.
Entering training camp before the 2016 season, one of the looming questions the Ravens faced was who would be manning the middle of the defense alongside C.J. Mosley. The Ravens drafted linebacker Kamalei Correa in the second round of the draft out of Boise State, and they had veteran linebacker Albert McClellan on the roster. Orr did not seem to care, playing his way to the starting job. It ended up being a blessing for the Ravens.
Along with leading the team in tackles, Orr proved to be durable. He missed just two games in three seasons, and started 15 games for the Ravens last season (Orr missed the meaningless week 17 finale). Orr had a high level or character, got along with everyone, and worked hard on his craft.
“A shining example [of character] is Zach Orr,” Harbaugh said. “[The way] he conducts himself every day. Highly intelligent.”
With Orr’s retirement, inside linebacker now becomes a position the Ravens will be keeping an eye on throughout the offseason. Mosley is a clear-cut starter, but Baltimore needs someone else to play alongside him. McClellan is the veteran in-house that could fill the void, or the Ravens could look to Correa to step up and take the reigns on that spot. The Ravens could also take a look at what outside options are available through either free agency or the draft.
There are other positions on the roster that Baltimore needs to worry about more than inside linebacker, but there will be a void to fill with the 2016 tackles leader no longer on the roster.
“[Orr] is a great football player,” Pees said on Friday. “I cannot tell you how much we are going to miss him.”