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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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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Ravens hoping to re-sign Robert Griffin III, per report

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Ravens hoping to re-sign Robert Griffin III, per report

Here's your Tuesday roundup of the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player's Notes: 

The Ravens are hoping to re-sign backup quarterback Robert Griffin III, Jeff Zrebiec of TheAthletic.com reports. Playing 2018 on a one-year, $1 million deal, Griffin III appeared in three games, completing 2-of-6 passes for 21 yards. Retaining RGIII would make a ton of sense for the Ravens. Lamar Jackson is their only signed QB at the moment.

Thinking about Jackson handing the ball off to running back Mark Ingram in 2019 certainly has fans excited, and for the Ravens' newest acquisition, he's got plans for the dynamic duo to change the game.

Ronnie Stanley is predicting a bright future for his QB. While speaking on NFL Network's Good Morning Football, the tackle had high regards for how Jackson handled himself his rookie season. 

Safety Tony Jefferson got candid about the Ravens' offseason moves while on NFL Total Access. He admitted that it "hurt a little bit" to see veteran teammates like Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley exit in free agency, but is excited to have a future Hall of Famer in Earl Thomas on his side. .

In AFC North news, the Bengals cut linebacker Vontaze Burfict after seven seasons. The former Pro Bowler played seven games in 2018, totaling 33 combined tackles and 17 assist. 

Looking Ahead: 

March 24-27: Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, Az.

April 15: Voluntary OTA's may begin

April 19: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets

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Former Ravens great Haloti Ngata retires on top of the world... literally

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AP Images

Former Ravens great Haloti Ngata retires on top of the world... literally

Defensive lineman Haloti Ngata is one of the greatest Ravens in the franchise’s short history. He made five Pro Bowls in nine years in Baltimore after being selected 12th overall in the 2006 draft, helped lead the team to its second Super Bowl victory in 2013, and was regularly considered one of the best defensive players in the sport.

And yet, his most impressive feat might be his retirement announcement.

Ngata announced this week on Instagram that he was retiring from the NFL after 13 seasons, but it wasn’t your standard retirement. 

The hulking lineman hiked to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro to post a picture with a customized banner announcing his playing career is over. The banner mentions going out from the NFL “on top,” a fitting phrase for a man standing at Africa’s highest point.

19,341 feet above sea level. For reference, that’s nearly 121 full-length football fields.

Ngata was always a man who embraced challenges, and climbing the world’s tallest free standing mountain certainly qualifies. He has an argument as a top-five player in team history, and now has an argument for top five retirement in league history as well.

The bar has now been set really, really high for future retirement announcements around sports. It’ll be tough to top this one, either in creativity or in literal height.

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