Baltimore Ravens linebacker Zach Orr has improved significantly over his three years thus far in the NFL, where he’s gone from undrafted rookie to the team’s leading tackler.

Ravens LB Zach Orr, 24, Announces Retirement due to neck condition

A congenital spine and neck condition, however, forced him to announce his retirement on Friday.

A CAT scan after the season revealed the first cervical vertebrae at the top of the 24-year-old’s spine never fully formed. which puts him at a higher risk for fatality and paralysis, Orr stated.

“When I first found out the news, it was shocking,” Orr said. “I was sad, disappointed, upset, because football is something I’ve done my whole life, and something I love, and still love to this day.”


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A first-time starter after entering training camp as a backup, Orr compiled 132 tackles this season, including two on special teams. Orr missed the season finale, though his single-season total was the team’s third-highest in the past 10 years, only behind Ray Lewis’ performance in 2010 (139 tackles) and 2009 (134).

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome stated the team had already discussed giving Orr a tender as a restricted free agent, which would likely have landed him more than $2.5 million in 2017, with a potential contract extension.

Newsome called Orr the most “inspirational” player he’s met in the past three years.

“I feel like my hands were kind of tied,” Orr said. “I won’t be able to pass a physical. If I could pass a physical, who knows? I would probably take that chance.”

Orr is not the only NFL player to abruptly retire at a young age in recent years. One notable example is San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, who retired after a strong rookie season, citing concussion worries.

Orr sustained a neck injury during the Week 6 game at Pittsburgh and continued to feel pain in his neck. An MRI revealed a herniated disk.

The youngster didn’t learn the extent of his condition until his end-of-season examination.

“Everybody that broke down the situation to me were at a loss for words,” Orr said. “They were trying to figure out how I was playing football this long without anything major happening. I look at it as a blessing.”

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Orr is the 13th NFL player since the beginning of 2015 to retire at age 25 or younger.

Orr was selected by Baltimore as an undrafted rookie out of North Texas in 2014 and became one of the team’s top special-teams players by his second season.

“I’m very proud that he’s been a Raven,” coach John Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Dean Pees and linebackers coach Don “Wink” Martindale continually lauded Orr’s intelligence, work ethic and commitment to the team.

Orr stated he is considering remaining in the game as a coach, and Harbaugh said the Ravens would be interested in bringing him on their staff.

“Walking away, I can be at peace with this because I don’t have any regrets, on the field or off the field,” Orr said. “I don’t have any of that in my body.”

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)

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