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Ravens' Zach Orr forced to retire due to rare spinal condition

Ravens' Zach Orr forced to retire due to rare spinal condition

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens inside linebacker Zach Orr had no choice but to retire, after a physical examination detected a spinal condition that made it extremely dangerous for him to continue his career.

“I have a condition that I was born with,” Orr said Friday, making his formal retirement announcement during a press conference. “I’m forced to walk away from the game of football.”

Orr said a CAT scan revealed a rare congenital abnormality, and that the top of his spinal column had never fully developed. Orr was never aware of his issue until he suffered a shoulder injury against the Steelers on Christmas that led to further testing.

While Orr never imagined he would retire at age 24, he felt blessed to be leaving the game before his condition led to a catastrophic injury. Orr has been playing football with his spinal condition since he was nine years old, and said doctors could not explain how he had played so long without his issue being detected.

“When I first found out the news, it was shocking,” Orr said. “Football is something I’ve done my whole life.”

Orr said retirement was his only option, because he would never pass an NFL physical. He also said that reports the Ravens tried to talk him out of retirement were inaccurate.

“They’ve supported me through this,” said Orr, who added that one of his high school teammates was paralyzed playing football.

Orr kept his composure during the press conference, but admitted he took the news hard at first. One of those emotional moments came after a telephone conversation with recently retired wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.

“I broke down a couple of times, as recent as a couple of days ago,” Orr said.

Three of Orr’s teammates attended Friday’s press conference – linebackers C. J. Mosley and Albert McClellan, and safety Eric Weddle. General manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Dean Pees, and linebackers coach Don Martindale were also in attendance. Orr is one of the most popular and respected players in the locker room. An undrafted free agent in 2014, Orr made the team as a special teams standout and earned a starting job for the first time this season. He led the Ravens in tackles (130), finishing 10th in the NFL in that department.

Orr had a bright future as a player. Now, that future will head in another direction.

“Instead of asking – ‘Why me?, ask ‘What’s next?’” Orr said.

“I’m very proud that he’s been a Raven,” said Harbaugh. “I can’t wait to see what the next door holds.”

Related: Ravens name their new offensive line coach

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Ravens defense digs too deep a hole in 33-28 loss to Chiefs on the road

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Ravens defense digs too deep a hole in 33-28 loss to Chiefs on the road

The Ravens needed to hold the Chiefs to eight or less yards to get the ball back. 

Faced with a third-and-9 in their own territory, the Chiefs dialed up a screen pass to win the game. Instead of nine yards, they got 16. 

On a day when the defense had trouble getting off the field, it was only fitting the Ravens couldn’t get a stop when it mattered most in a 33-28 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.

“That play is really kind of a play that everybody on the defense is really kind of involved in,” Tony Jefferson said. “So we say, ‘Who’s responsible for the screen? Everybody.’ Back to the drawing board, we’ll look at it and see the things we’ve got to fix.”

The Ravens defense allowed 503 yards of total offense, a number they didn’t hit all of last season. The longest play was an 83-yard touchdown from Patrick Mahomes to Mecole Hardman to put the Chiefs up 20-6 in the second quarter. 

Mahomes finished the day with 374 yards passing and three touchdowns. His 374 yards passing was a number Mahomes needed overtime to hit last season.

“That’s an explosive, very good offense,” Jefferson said. “Mahomes did a good job extending plays, as we knew.”

Baltimore’s defense allowed 23 points in the second quarter as it had trouble dealing with Kansas City’s vaunted passing attack. But a problem that came up unexpectedly was the run, as the Chiefs averaged 5.4 yards a carry. 

The Ravens trailed 23-6 at halftime, but cut the lead multiple times to a one-score game in the second half. But the 17-point deficit was far too much to overcome, especially with an offense like Kansas City’s. 

“I thought our guys fought like crazy,” coach John Harbaugh said. “If we get a little bit better, we’ll win games like this.”

The game took a bit of a turn in the second half, as the Ravens continually went for two-point conversions in an aggressive game plan. They missed all three. 

They also went two-for-three on fourth down conversions, in an effort to keep their offense on the field and keep Mahomes off it.

“Analytically, when you look at the numbers, it’s not even close,” Harbaugh said. “In terms of percentage of chances to win the game. We believe in our offense, we’re going to try and get as many first downs as we can.”

And while the defense improved in the second half and only allowed 10 points, the damage was done as the Ravens offense couldn’t climb out of the hole left by the big halftime deficit. 

Even the aggressiveness of the offense couldn’t make up for the early halftime deficit.  

“We talked about it going into the game, that our offense was going to take chances on fourth down and we were ready for it,” Jefferson said. “We totally agreed with it, because we don’t back down from anybody.”

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Stock up, stock down: Rating the Ravens after their five-point loss to the Chiefs

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Stock up, stock down: Rating the Ravens after their five-point loss to the Chiefs

In a monster AFC matchup on Sunday, the Ravens weren’t able to get enough offense and enough stops on defense to earn the win. 

The loss drops the Ravens to 2-1 ahead of the Browns matchup on Sunday.

Here are a few players whose stocks are up and down after the loss.

Stock down: Pass defense

The Ravens defense knew they had a challenge to face against Patrick Mahomes. It’s likely they won’t see one like him again. 

Mahomes threw for 374 yards on 27-of-37 passing and had three touchdowns passing. He led an offense that scored three touchdowns in the first half, the same number it scored against the Ravens last season. 

It wasn’t pretty for the pass defense, as a blown coverage led to an 83-yard score which gave the Chiefs all the momentum they needed. 

Three receivers (Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Darrel Williams) had five or more receptions.

“Some of them (deep pass plays) were well executed by them,” coach John Harbaugh said. “The one touchdown was just played wrong by a certain player, that happens. So that’s what happened.” 

Stock down: Lamar Jackson

Jackson had the first rough game of his 2019 season.

He finished just 22-of-43 and had 267 yards. He looked impressive on the Ravens first drive of the game and bought time with his legs in the pocket, but faltered as the game wore on. 

Jackson picked his game up in the fourth quarter, but was aided by two throws that can only be described as Hail Mary throws caught by Seth Roberts and Willie Snead. 

“We let our defense down, I feel,” Jackson said. “I had a lot of throws I should have made, I feel.”

Stock up: Nick Boyle

The first of two positives on the offense, Boyle was the team’s leading receiver with four receptions for 58 yards.

With Mark Andrews (three catches for 15 yards) hobbled with a foot injury, Boyle was Jackson’s most consistent target over the middle of the field.

When Andrews returns to full health, Boyle likely won’t see the volume of targets he saw today. But it was a nice day for the Delaware product.

Stock up: Mark Ingram

The Ravens made a commitment to the run game on the first drives of each half, and it showed as Ingram tied a Ravens record with three rushing TDs in a game. 

Ingram finished with 103 yards on 16 carries — a 6.4 yards per carry average — and was the game’s leading rusher.

“I think it speaks for itself, we ran the ball well,” Harbaugh said. “Offensive played excellent, played tremendous I thought.”

Stock down: Two-Point Plays

Woof. The Ravens had three two-point plays, including one that came from the one-yard line, and weren’t able to score on any of them. 

They went for two up 6-0, down 30-19 and 33-28. They made none of those. 

Still, despite the result, it may not have been the worst decision to go for two points...

Stock up: John Harbaugh’s decisions

Hang in there on this one. 

The Ravens first decision to go for two points was due to the fact that they had the ball at the Chiefs one-yard line and thought they could punch in a quick conversion. The second decision was likely to cut the lead to nine, so that a touchdown and a field goal would win the game instead of merely tie the game. The final decision was to cut the lead to a field goal. 

Harbaugh said he doesn’t regret any of the decisions. 

“I don’t think we’re setting any tone, there’s no tone to be set,” Harbaugh said. “You’re trying to do everything you can to win the game. And when you get the ball at the one-yard line, it makes a lot of sense to go for two. Unless you’re playing scared, which we aren’t going to do.”

Stock down: Run defense

The Ravens allowed 140 yards rushing (5.4 yards a carry) to a host of Chiefs running backs. Williams and LeSean McCoy had 6.9 and 6.8 yards per carry to lead the team. 

Against Mahomes, knowing his deadliness passing the ball, the run defense had to be as sharp as ever. Unfortunately for the Ravens, it wasn’t as the Ravens could slow down the Chiefs ariel and ground attack.

Stock down: Linebackers

Patrick Onwuasor had a pass go inches above his hands in a metaphor for the entire afternoon. 

He, Chris Board and Kenny Young didn’t have their best days as the Chiefs were able to run the ball well all afternoon. 

Mahomes was able to fling the ball out to the flats early in the game, as his running backs ran free in the flat all afternoon long. 

Overall, the Ravens defense just had an afternoon to forget. 

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