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Late For Work 6/29: Columnist Thinks NFL Shouldn't Allow Zachary Orr to Return


Schmuck: NFL Shouldn't Let Orr Return

As detailed yesterday, Zachary Orr is coming out of retirement after getting a better prognosis regarding his congenital spine condition.

The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck says that while Orr wants to play again, the NFL shouldn’t let him.

"This kind of thing has happened before, with bad results," Schmuck wrote. "The reason Orr made the shocking announcement in January that he was retiring from the NFL was because continuing to play football could endanger his life. That hasn't changed."

Schmuck points to college basketball star Hank Gathers, who kept playing with a heart condition until he died on the court in 1990.

Closer to home, tight end Dennis Pitta had conflicting medical advice on whether he should return after a second hip surgery. His surgeon was confident that he performed a long-term fix, but Pitta's hip dislocated and fractured again earlier this month.

"Maybe Orr is hoping that some team will sign him for a few million this year and he can bank some security, then walk away with some kind of NFL nest egg. Maybe he just loves the game so much that even a few months away has made it impossible for him to imagine never taking the field again," Schmuck wrote.

"Whatever the motivation, he needs to get over it and get on with his life. He's a bright young man with terrific prospects. He can do whatever he wants -- except safely play professional football."

Orr appeared at peace with his decision when he first announced it in January. Then, he believed there was no way he could play again. He said he wouldn't pass an NFL physical (that still remains to be seen). But now with hope and a possibility to return, Orr is running with it.

"The NFL needs to just say no instead of trumpeting on the NFL Network that he's on his way back," Schmuck said.

The MMQB's Albert Breer also looked at the risk Orr is taking in un-retiring. He reported that the Ravens have known about his decision for a couple months.

"And I can tell you that they love Orr as a player and a person, and people there will be rooting for him if he lands a job in the next few weeks (or days)," Breer wrote. " But there's also a healthy fear of the risk associated with his congenital neck/spine condition."

Breer wrote that Orr played for six weeks with a fractured shoulder last November and December, then tore his labrum and injured his biceps tendon as a result. It was only after a hit left him numb in Pittsburgh that he got the full CT scan at the Ravens' urging.

"As you might imagine, the 25-year-old's toughness was widely viewed as being beyond reproach in Baltimore," Breer wrote. "And so, if Orr successfully jumps back into football, it's fair to wonder if that'll work against him in managing a condition that could leave him paralyzed or worse.

"My sense is those people also are nervous about what's ahead. And it's hard to blame them for that."

It seems the league is definitely not saying 'no' to Orr. Eight teams reportedly called within the first 90 minutes after the NFL Network interview, and Orr is visiting the Detroit Lions today.

"He's going to be a player that generates a high level of interest," ESPN's Dan Graziano said. "Different teams are going to come to different conclusions in terms of how confident they are in terms of their ability to put him on the field."

Could Other Restricted Free Agents Follow Orr's Lead?

Still running with the Orr updates because this is such a unique story with many layers. Sorry I'm not sorry.

Orr's unretirement left the Ravens in a weird situation because they would have given him a restricted free-agent tender had he not retired. According to reports, the Ravens were even engaged in contract extension talks with Orr before the revelation of his injury.

After Orr retired, Baltimore did not offer a tender because – well, he was retired.

But now coming out of retirement, and without a tender from the Ravens, Orr is an unrestricted free agent and could find a bigger payday than he would have otherwise received as an RFA.

This wasn't some game Orr played, as he genuinely thought his career was over, then was informed otherwise by doctors he pursued.

But, as Pro Football Talk pondered, what’s stopping future restricted free agents from following Orr’s lead and retiring and then unretiring after the tender period passed?

"Players could try it, but the Ravens or another team could shut the loophole by simply tendering them at the lowest level regardless of their stated desire to stop playing," wrote PFT's Josh Alper. "The player might not sign the tender, but if they aren't going to play for another team because their original club would still hold onto their rights if they file retirement paperwork from the league.

"The Ravens didn't do that in this case, which may mean Orr winds up playing somewhere else in 2017 and should mean that teams approach any similar situations differently in the future."

Ranking the Ravens' All-Time Quarterbacks

This one really wasn't too hard to figure out.

ESPN identified the top all-time quarterbacks for every NFL team and asked its reporters – and fans – to help determine their rank in franchise history.

Yeah, like I said, it's not tough to name the No. 1 guy. Both Hensley and fans obviously put Flacco at the top, but there were some definite differences after that.

Hensley's top 5:

  1. Joe Flacco
  2. Vinny Testaverde
  3. Trent Dilfer
  4. Steve McNair
  5. Anthony Wright

Fan top 5:

  1. Joe Flacco
  2. Steve McNair
  3. Vinny Testaverde
  4. Trent Dilfer
  5. Kyle Boller

"Quarterback has never been the Ravens' strong suit, and it's reflected in 19 starters in the franchise's 21 years of existence," Hensley wrote.

"Flacco is the unquestioned best, owning almost every team passing record and leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl title with a near-perfect postseason. Testaverde, the Ravens' first starting quarterback, kept Baltimore competitive by throwing 51 touchdowns in 29 games. Dilfer was the perfect game manager to complement the NFL's stingiest defense, which resulted in the Ravens' first Super Bowl title. McNair led the Ravens to their best regular-season record (13-3) with his confident demeanor, and Wright helped Baltimore to the playoffs by delivering one of the best comebacks in team history."

According to fans, it wasn't even close for No. 2 between McNair and Testaverde. McNair had a net positive vote of 621 while Testaverde had 442. Boller just edged out Wright in the fan vote with a net negative-683 vote count to Wright's 692.

Breaking Down the Top 100 by College

You know why Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome likes Alabama players? It's because they're good.

While my colleague, Garrett Downing, outlined earlier this week how the Ravens got snubbed by this year’s NFL Network Top-100 list, there's good reason to believe that could change down the road.

Of all the schools represented on the top 100, Alabama was tied with Georgia for the most players on the list (five). Alabama's representatives were wide receiver Julio Jones, safety Landon Collins, wide receiver Amari Cooper, Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

What's crazy is that it was a recent explosion of Crimson Tide on the list, as Jones was the only Alabama alum in last year's top 100.

The Ravens have three Alabama players on the roster right now with linebacker C.J. Mosley and two rookies: first-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey and third-round outside linebacker Tim Williams. Mosley was No. 94 on the Top 100 Players of 2015 list, and after a second Pro Bowl season last year, he should be on it again.

Baltimore also has three players hailing from Georgia: tight end Benjamin Watson, cornerback Brandon Boykin and undrafted rookie center Brandon Kublanow.

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