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Zach Orr’s comeback brings so many questions

In five months, Zach Orr went from announcing he was retiring for medical reasons to having his agent announce he’s been ready to come back after the third month.

What exactly is going on here with this Zach Orr thing?

On January 20, Orr sat down for an emotional announcement that at just 24-years-old and three years in the NFL as an undrafted free agent signing, he was going to have to retire after an MRI following a neck injury revealed his C1 vertebra at the top of his spinal cord was not fully formed. He said doctors told him he was risk of paralysis or even death if he got hit the wrong way. Orr said he has multiple opinions from multiple doctors and spine specialists before he announced the retirement.

But now he is trying to make a comeback. This week on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football he said he plans to unretire and understands the risk that he and every other person who plays football has. His agent Robert Sheets went on “Vinny & Haynie” on 105.7 The Fan and also said it is possible for every football player to suffer a catastrophic injury while playing the game but also that it is no more probable that something will happen to Orr either.

Sheets said West Virginia spinal specialists Dr. Sanford Emery concluded that Orr had a herniated disk instead of an unformed C1 vertebra. That information was given in April, and Sheets said on the radio show that he has “been holding him (Orr) back for two months.”

This news that Orr is healthy and able to play comes two months later. That seems a bit fishy because two months ago, the Ravens could have put Orr on the Reserved/Retired List to retain his rights as Restricted Free Agent. The Ravens also could have tendered him by April 21, but by not doing either he is an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team.

It’s hard to turn news of an early retirement because of possible death into some sort of conspiracy, but altogether something seems off with this entire ordeal.

If Orr is, in fact, healthy, Sheets may have just slipped up saying that he held him back for two months so he could put his client in a better situation as an unrestricted free agent coming off a Second Team All-Pro 2016 season. But if Orr is, in fact, healthy, what does that say about the team’s doctors, who agreed that Orr was at serious risk and should retire?

Ozzie Newsome made it sound like the Ravens were not interested in bringing Orr back, saying clearly in a statement that Orr was a free agent. While the Ravens did go through an offseason and planned for life without Orr, they could just look to move on, but moving on from a Second Team All-Pro inside linebacker when the team does not have a clear starter next to CJ Mosley? Maybe the Ravens don’t want to risk having Orr because of the injury risk they still believe he has.

Emery certainly doesn’t seem like an umpteenth doctor Orr saw to give the answer he was looking for so he could continue his professional football career. Emery is the president of the American Orthopaedic Association, the world’s oldest orthopedic association, but it does seem peculiar that Orr stressed that multiple doctors gave multiple opinions that he should retire and Sheets only singled out one single doctor who said Orr could play.

Either Emery is wrong about this, which could lead to ultimate tragedy with a man’s life, or the Ravens medical staff is so wrong that the team should be left with no choice but to give them a deep evaluation of their ability.

But that brings up another interesting point too. If the Ravens won’t pass him physically, but another doctor will. Would any team in the NFL sign Orr? Sheets said he had received calls already from team representatives, but if he passes some physicals but others … it would probably be better for teams and the league, a league showing that they are fighting for player safety, to error on the side of caution.

Regardless, it is probably safe to assume that the Ravens won’t be one of the team’s interested in Orr, especially if it is true that he and his agent withheld information to work a better free agency angle. Trust is key in pro sports and business relationships. That trust has to be lost with that move. The physical and medical aspects, there are still so many questions left to be answered as to how after five months a guy went from an emotional retirement to guarantee he’ll be playing in the NFL next year. This story is certainly still unfolding.

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Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

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