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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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The Ravens didn’t sign Michael Brockers — now what?

The Ravens didn’t sign Michael Brockers — now what?

Earlier this week, the Ravens touted their defensive line as the most improved position group through the first wave of free agency. They even felt comfortable enough to trade rotational piece Chris Wormley to the Steelers. 

Now, the defensive line has more questions than answers. 

The team confirmed early Friday morning, as Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic originally reported, they were unable to come to a deal with defensive lineman Michael Brockers over concerns because of a physical. More specifically, there were concerns over the status of Brockers’ left ankle.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ravens team doctors were unable to examine Brockers themselves and instead had to rely on the work of independent doctors. 

During a conference call with reporters Thursday, new acquisition Calais Campbell said he had to go to the Mayo Clinic to receive his physical. He called the process tricky. 

Brockers quickly signed a very similar deal to the one he signed with Baltimore to stay in Los Angeles with the Rams just hours after the Ravens deal fell through. His new deal is a three-year deal worth $31.5 million. 

So now, the Ravens are left with the difficult reality that a handful of potential targets are no longer viable options due to the first wave of defensive linemen having signed elsewhere. They also shipped off Wormley and a 2021 seventh-round pick for a 2021 fifth-round pick, further depleting the defensive line. 

Michael Pierce, a talented run-stopping defender, left during free agency to sign with the Vikings, too. 

Baltimore now has Campbell, Brandon Williams, Justin Ellis, Jihad Ward and Daylon Mack on the depth chart at defensive line. Not only do the Ravens need more depth at the position, they also need another starter. 

While the Ravens have the 28th pick in the draft, including seven picks in the first four rounds, the front seven’s needs now have been thrust into the spotlight. Before, an argument could’ve been made that the Ravens should devote resources elsewhere: inside linebacker, interior offensive line, wide receiver, or perhaps an edge rusher. 

Now, the defensive line, and front seven as a whole, is once again the team’s biggest need. While it’s not necessary to address in the first round specifically, the Ravens are now almost guaranteed to make a handful of picks in the front seven for next month’s draft. 

The Ravens could dip their toes into the free agent market once again with their newfound cap space and make a run at a few veterans still left on the market. They could also go after an edge player, or an inside linebacker instead, to help cover up an additional need before the draft. 

The Ravens had a plan entering free agency, and quite simply, it went as well as they expected. 

Now, though, the Ravens are left with a questionable physical and a handful of questions to answer about the future of the defensive line.

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Ravens say they will not sign Michael Brockers after two sides fail to come to an agreement

Ravens say they will not sign Michael Brockers after two sides fail to come to an agreement

The Baltimore Ravens announced Friday that they will not be signing free agent defensive tackle Michael Brockers as previously reported.

The announcement comes two days after it was reported the deal hit a potential snag after Brockers' high ankle sprain from last season was flagged during a physical, so the reported deal between the two sides could not be agreed upon, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Now, Brockers will head back to the Los Angeles Rams, where the two reportedly agreed upon a 3-year, $31.5 million deal, according to Rapoport. 

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