Now here’s something you don’t see every day. A player who retired young due to a serious injury that was believed to jeopardize his health if he continued to play just unretired. You may have read about it here yesterday when Dave Bryan posed the question of whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers would be interested in him.
By the way, please welcome Dave back home. If you follow him on Twitter, you know where he has been for most of the past week and what he must be going through. But I digress.
The player in question is former Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Zachary Orr, and former is the key word here. See, Orr is a three-year veteran, but because he was expected to retire, the Ravens never bothered to extend a restricted free agent tender on him. The deadline for doing so has long passed, and that has made him an unrestricted free agent. He already has a visit with the Lions.
You may recall that Orr retired due to a spinal condition that was discovered after the 2016 season ended. He never actually filed retirement papers, though. He was advised by many close associates to seek further opinions after the fact, and he did so.
“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”, he 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”, only to discover that his condition is extremely rare—so rare that there is no available evidence that indicates a serious risk of continuing to play
He mentioned that there is a player in college who learned of the same issue and returned to play. So now he intends to do the same. “Now that I’ve gotten a taste of the game being taken away from me, I’m even more hungry to play”, he said.
It is quite a twist from just a short time ago, when he said that his mind was definitely made up. But things have changed completely since then. “As far as me physically, mentally, I’m ready to go”, he said. “I’m feeling better than ever. I’m feeling like I have these past offseasons and everything like that. So I’m ready to go”.
Now the question is who he will play for. At the moment it doesn’t appear entirely obvious that he will return to the Ravens. For starters, they don’t have a lot of cap space after squeezing in Jeremy Maclin. But an article from The Baltimore Sun (linked to above) raises doubts that the team’s doctors would ever clear him medically.
In his first season as a starter in 2016, Orr recorded 132 tackles in addition to three interceptions, five passes defensed, and a forced fumble. In two games against the Steelers, he had 18 tackles, an interception, and two passes defensed.