Ozzie Newsome opening statement:"First of all, I want to thank everyone for coming out this morning. I'm going to turn it over to Zach; he has an announcement."
Zachary Orr opening statement:"First, I want to thank the Baltimore Ravens for having me in today and for being supportive of everything I've done since I got here. I want to thank a family friend, Mr. Gary Adler, for being here, my older brother Terrance Orr, my linebacker coach, Coach 'Wink' [Don Martindale], friend and linebacker teammates, Albert McClellan, C.J. Mosley, and Eric Weddle for being here to support me.
"The announcement I had to make today is that I'm kind of forced to walk away from the game of football. I had an injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Christmas Day. I had some neck pain the following day, so we decided to get an MRI done and found out I have a herniated disc in my neck, which knocked me out of the last game of the season. We decided to do more tests, and I got a CAT scan done. The CAT scan revealed that I have a condition I was born with that less than one percent of the world has. Pretty much, the top of my C1 – the top of my spine … I don't know the exact term of it, but it was never formed completely. That puts me at a real increased risk than anybody else – even more of an increased risk than we're already at – for fatality or being paralyzed. That pretty much disqualified me from playing collision sports, which obviously includes football. It's really just a blessing I've been able to play the game. I've been playing since I was nine years old. It's been a blessing I've been able to play the game so long without any major injury happening. When I first found out the news, it was shocking. I was sad, disappointed and upset, because football is something I've done pretty much my whole life – something I love and that I still love it to this day. I can't thank my family enough – my momma, my dad, my brothers – for being that support system for me and just being happy that I was able to make it this far and happy that I was able to walk away from the game in good health. I can't thank the Baltimore Ravens enough. I couldn't have come to a better organization three years ago in 2014 as an undrafted free agent. Everybody in this building is a great group of men, great group of people that not only care about your success on the field, but care about your success off the field. I was hearing reports that they tried to talk me out of this [decision], tried to talk me out of that. Those [reports] are 110 percent false. They've been real supportive from Day One. They continue to support me through this decision. It's something that I really have no control over. The condition that I have, or was born with, won't allow me to pass a physical to play the game. I was the first one to say that if there's some miracle way or some miracle treatment or anything like that, where I can play the game, I promise I'd be the first one to grab my cleats again, start back training and try to find a way to get back out there. I've received nothing but support from the Baltimore Ravens from Day One. That starts from the top with owner Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti, Ozzie [Newsome], Coach 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh], all the way throughout the building. I'm just thankful I was able to come here and grow as a player, and most importantly, grow as a man, because in life, that's what is most important. As far as what's next, I still have love for the game. I don't know exactly what I'm going to do next. I know eventually I want to get into coaching and things like that. I'm ready to attack whatever's next, 110 percent. My brother said it best. He said: 'Instead of asking why me, just ask what's next.' That's what I'm looking forward to. Whatever that is, I'm ready to get after it, 110 percent. In the meantime, as I figure that out, I already have my foundation in the works. It's called Orr Family Kids and Youth Foundation. It's just pretty much giving back to the community and helping build up the young folks, especially our young men, because they're going to be a vital part of our community in the next coming years. Now, I have some time to look into that and focus on that and continue to do that. That was something I always wanted to do ever since I was younger. I have the opportunity, and I'm going to continue to work on that. Pretty much, that's my situation. I appreciate everybody being here. I'm going to thank them again, because I can't thank them enough, but everybody in my linebacker room, starting with Coach Wink. He had faith in me from Day One since I walked in here and pretty much told me that I can be a starter in this league when I walked in here as an undrafted rookie. When I wasn't even on the team at first, when I was fighting for a spot, he told me that and had faith in me. Albert McClellan is a guy who made the team as an undrafted free agent before and who helped me out tremendously when he didn't have to. As a veteran, he looked after me. That's just the type of men and players we have on this squad. As far as C.J. goes, we came in the same year. He was a first-round draft pick, and you can tell that by his play on the field. But, you wouldn't know that off the field. The dude is humble. He didn't treat me any different type of way. He treated everybody the same, didn't act big-time and came into work each and every day. This year, I had an opportunity to be teammates with Eric Weddle. It was great. You have a guy that's a great player on the field, but an even better person off the field, that genuinely cares about your life and genuinely cares about how you're feeling. You can't ask for a better teammate than him. I've done a lot of talking. You guys are probably tired of hearing me talk, but I'm glad you guys are here. I'm glad everybody's is here. Coach Pees, Ozzie, Coach Harbs – I'm glad they're here. They've all had a part of my success, not only on the field, but off the field, and I'm thankful.
"Lastly, I just want to thank the fans. The fans, since I came in here, took me in as one of their own, rooted for me and supported me. I've been getting messages of support up to this minute. I can't say how important that is and everything like that. Thank you guys."
*(NEWSOME) *"From my perspective, when you're at the end of the season, [there are] so many things that we have to take care of before we allow the players to leave. When I got the news about Zach, I had to do a double take, because I never expected to hear something like that. Having had the opportunity to sit with a number of players at a press conference like this that have had longer careers, I don't think there has been any player that has been more inspirational to me over the last three years than Zach. I know Zach's father. We played the same position, and he played down the road [in Washington]. I had the chance to visit with him when we played in Dallas, and I saw how proud he was of Zach and his other kids. I can only imagine right now what is going through Terry's mind about what Zach was able to accomplish in three years. To be undrafted, to come to a team where he was fighting from the bottom, makes the team, becoming one of your better special teams players in his second year, getting an opportunity to start in his third year and get some All-Pro votes … I can just, right now, look at Terry and say, 'You have to be really, really proud of Zach.' And so am I."
John Harbaugh opening statement:"The first thing that comes to my mind is you often hear that football builds character, and that's definitely true. It's a hard sport, and all these three guys here can attest to it. But also, it shines a light on character. It shows people who they are. To me, a shining example of that is Zach Orr, coming in here, what he accomplished, most definitely, but even beyond that – how he conducts himself every single day, how hard he works. He's highly intelligent and as hard a worker as you're ever going to see. He never, ever has a negative or disparaging word for anything or anybody. All he does is just come in and just work as hard as he can to be his best and to take care of his teammates and do everything he can to help the team. To see that rewarded with the kind of success that he has had, I think is something for young people to take a look at. It's very fitting that his foundation is going to be for young people, because really, he's an example. He comes from a phenomenal family. Has a big brother and just has a family that has raised him, obviously, the right way. I'm just very proud that he's been a Raven, very proud to call him a friend, and I can't wait to see what the next door holds for Zach Orr."
Dean Pees opening statement:"I'm kind of up here more to talk a little bit more about the defensive football player sitting here beside me. This guy had an incredible year. 'Wink' can attest to this: In the last two days – we start doing our cutups at the end of the year and we go back and we examine every play – the last two days, we've done third down. We finished the league, I think, second in the league, or something like, that on third down this year. This guy right here … What we do is we write down every player's name when there's something good and when there's something bad, because we want to see the column. You have to see the column on this guy. This morning was phenomenal, wasn't it, Wink? Every other down we're saying, '54 … 54 … What a great play … Hell of a play.' Some unbelievable stops. As a football player, and as a defensive football player, this guy just came [ready to play]. Talk about [undrafted] free agents, you can talk about all the draft picks and all of that stuff. That really doesn't matter. This guy is a football player, and he proved he's a football player. He's a great complement, also, to C.J., who is one of the greatest football players in this league, and to Albert. They all complement each other thanks to Wink and that room. The other part of being a football player, too, is the classroom that you guys don't ever see. You guys see him on Sunday flying around. This guy is one of the smartest football players I've ever been around. It makes the job easy for coaches, for position coaches and for coordinators, when you have guys like this that you can do so many things with. You can tell him on the sideline to make a little adjustment, and this guy can go right out there and get it done. That's what makes the difference between great football players and football players. This guy right here is a great football player, and I can't tell you how much we're going to miss him."
With a father who played the game at the highest level, two brothers playing major college football and having all these people around you who know the inherent risks of this game … It sure wasn't an easy decision to walk away, but was it a quick decision? (Joe Platania)
*(ORR) *"It wasn't a quick decision. It definitely was not easy. It definitely was not a quick decision. I feel like my hands were kind of tied, because I won't be able to pass a physical. With the situation I am in, I will not pass a physical, which will not allow me to play. If I can pass a physical, who knows? I probably would take that chance. But I cannot pass a physical. As a football player, we definitely know the risks that are at hand, but if you love the game and you are a fan of the game and you love it, then you are going to play. That is what makes this sport great. Every football player knows the risk we take every time we strap up the helmet and lace up the cleats, but that does not stop us, because of our love for the game and just how great the game is. Football is a great sport. My situation is different, and that does not take away from the game. All my feelings toward the game do not change at all. Like I said, if there was a way I could pass a physical and play, I would be the first one back out there."
When you got the news that this was something that goes back to birth, was that breaking news to you? Did you go out and seek a second or third opinion?* (Jerry Coleman)*
*(ORR) *"Yes, it was breaking news. We got multiple opinions from multiple doctors and spine specialists and everything like that. They all were just shocked. Everybody that broke down the situation to me were pretty much lost for words, because they were trying to figure out how I have been playing football this long without anything major happening. I look at it as a blessing that the Lord blessed me to play football this long. Like I said, I have been playing 15 years. I started playing football when I was nine. I am just blessed that he allowed me to play the great game of football, allowed me to get a taste of it for this long without anything happening."
How do you weigh the disappointment of this? After three years, you are on the cusp of stardom of this career, and it gets cut short with the good fortune you mentioned, with the blessings – the ticking time bomb did not go off. (Pete Gilbert)
*(ORR) *"I always take a positive outlook on everything. It is something that I cannot control what happened. I felt like my best football years on the field were ahead of me. I was so excited exiting the season, just getting back to work in the offseason, because I knew what I had to improve on as a player, and I was so excited. I knew the player that I was going to be; I was nowhere near close to that, yet. So, I was excited about that. But at the end of the day, when I found out the news and found out how serious it is, it was something that I just looked at as a blessing. I look at it as when a door closes, another one opens. I am ready for that next door to open, and I am ready to jump at that opportunity, whatever that is."
Along with nearing stardom, it was the money that you were going to make – the potential money. I get the sense, though, that you are going to miss more the process of being a football player.* (Stan Charles)*
(ORR) "Oh, yes. Do not get me wrong, money is great. Money is great. (laughter) I think we would all be lying in this room if we did not say money was great. *(laughter) *But I really do … I told my brothers this all the time: I could not have been at a better organization. I am probably spoiled, because this is the only organization I know. I love coming to work each and every day. When my alarm clock goes off, yes, I am tired, and I am like, 'Aw man.' But when I get up here, I love being in here with my teammates, in this room right here watching film, figuring out how we are going to stop opposing offenses, figuring out on the punt team how we are going to stop a great punt returner or stop certain rushes. I love everything about football. I love game-planning, watching film – I love all of that. I fell in love with the game at a young age, and that is definitely what I am going to miss the most, probably just being in the locker room with the guys and joking around. I am definitely going to be around the game in some type of form or fashion, so I still will be able to get that feeling with the game plan and everything. But walking out of the tunnel with your brothers, strapping the helmets up, lacing the cleats up and knowing that you are about to go to war – there is no better feeling than that. That is definitely what I am going to miss most about it."
Hearing you speak, it sounds like you are taking this very well. But since the end of the season when you made this decision and got this news, has there been a time – either by yourself or with your family – where you really didn't? (Shawn Stepner)
*(ORR) *"I broke down a couple of times as recent as a couple days ago. I got a call … Steve Smith called me, and I talked to him for about 20-30 minutes, and after that phone call, I broke down. I happened to be at the house by myself. I have my moments and everything like that. I have a great … I cannot stress this enough: I am blessed to have great family and friends and great men in my life that mentor me – not just my father – but just great men in general in my life that mentor me and helped raise me. They have constantly been in my ear just letting me know that I am not alone in this fight and not alone in this. They have been there every step of the way with me. Pretty much coming up here, flying up here with my brother, my older brother, who is one of my best friends, just talking to him, he kind of helped me be at peace with the situation, and everything that is going on. Like I said, I have my mojo back, and I am excited for whatever is next. Whatever is next, I am going to work as hard as I did here."
You talk about how blessed you feel that nothing has happened up until this point, knowing now what you have. In a weird sort of way, do you feel blessed to know now that you can walk away with your health and that over the next 10 years with an NFL career, something more serious could have happened and that this injury may have saved you from something more seriously down the road? (Brent Harris)
*(ORR) *"I definitely feel blessed to find out this way, because what a lot of people do not know is that one of my teammates in high school got paralyzed on the football field. I have seen that up close and personal. I have seen how that affected not just his life, but the life around others. That is one thing that me and my family … We put things in perspective. If we had to find out – which was tough news to find out anyway – we would rather find out being in good health rather than find out the alternative way. I am definitely glad that we were able to find this out right away, and I can be able to walk away. That is just a testament to the medical staff here, because a lot of times when they do the CAT scans, they do not do it from the top – from the top of your skull and all of that. The Ravens' [medical staff] did that, so it allowed them to catch it. Even if I would have got a normal CAT scan done, and they did not do it the right way, we probably still would have never detected it."
John, Dean Pees talked about his football IQ. Does that translate into coaching potential? (Peter Schmuck)
(HARBAUGH)"We have had that conversation, Zach and I. We will see. I know Zach wants to stay in football, and if he ever wanted to be a coach, any program or any organization would be thrilled to have him, and that would definitely include us."
Do you know if you are going to stay here in Baltimore? Are you going to bounce down to Texas? Where will the second chapter take place? (Kirk McEwen)
*(ORR) *"I do not know yet. I know, right now, I am going to go back to Texas and spend time with my family and everything. But whenever that next chapter begins, I am ready. I am open to go wherever. I am young – 24 years old. I do not have any kids, I am not married. My hands are not really tied anywhere. I really can get up and go anywhere at any time. I really do not know where that is going to be at."
Did this come about because you guys were possibly on the verge of maybe offering an extension, and then he had to go through the medical process and that is where it was discovered?* (Jerry Coleman)*
(NEWSOME) "No. No, it was the end-of-season physical. All of our players have an end-of-season physical. We already had put in the plans. Zach was going to be a restricted free agent, and we already had talked about what tender we were going to put on him, and then, whether we would want to be able to get an extension off of that."
You talked about a dream of being able to play with your younger brothers in the NFL. I know that cannot happen now, but how much are you looking forward to putting energy into rooting for them that they get to this level? (Luke Jones)
(ORR) "I am putting in a lot of energy. Just talking to them, they helped me get through this, because now they are even more motivated. They are telling me, just like brothers, 'I got your back.' I have a brother [Nick] that is a senior defensive back at TCU, so he has one more year left. And, I have a younger brother [Chris] who is going to be a redshirt sophomore next year at Wisconsin. The great thing about that situation is that he has been wearing No. 50 the past couple of years, and he is going to change his number to No. 54 for big bro. He told me that he's got me – that he has my back. I am going to be excited to see him playing in the jersey No. 54 up at Camp Randall [Stadium] and at the University of Wisconsin. I am definitely going to push those guys regardless, whether I am still playing or not. We are each other's biggest motivators and biggest critics. I always watch their games, whether I have to go back and watch them on YouTube, and we always are giving each other the best advice we can give. They definitely … We could definitely tell that there is a jolt in both of those guys' steps. They went back to school earlier this week to go back for winter workouts, and from what I have been hearing, they have been killing it. So, we will see."
Did you have anything done with your shoulder? Is that connected to your neck at all? (Jeff Zrebiec)
(ORR)"No. I did have surgery on my shoulder, but it is a separate deal."
What do you say to the younger players that are out there and don't get drafted and come in undrafted? Are there any thoughts to them out there to keep pushing forward? (Bill West)
*(ORR) *"Yes. That is why they have the undrafted process. [Coaches and scouts] know there are guys out there that can still play football, and just because you did not hear your name called, it does not mean that you cannot play. It is tough not hearing your name called. It is tough seeing people get drafted that you might feel like you are better than or you are on the same level as. But you cannot let that affect you. At the end of the day, you did not get drafted. You cannot go back and change the draft. You have to just keep moving forward and have that confidence in yourself that you can play. If you do get signed to an undrafted free agent contract or you get brought in for a tryout, that means that team thinks you can play. They think you have something. It is up to you to show them that you do have something, and when you get your chance, you have to make the most of your opportunity. You have to be ready. You cannot sit there and be sad at the fact that you did not get drafted. But keep pushing and make sure you know what you are doing, and when your number is called, make sure you are ready."
Is there a name for what the condition is? (Peter Schmuck)
(ORR) *"There is a name, but I cannot tell you. I have seen a lot of … I don't even know … I can't tell you what it is; I don't even know how to spell it. *(laughter) I have seen so many medical terms over the past couple of weeks that I might get it confused and everything. There is a name for it, though."
You said that this is something that you were born with. You have had physicals throughout your life, and now it is discovered at this juncture. You probably sit back and say, "Wow, this was missed multiple times." Was there an explanation for that? (Jerry Coleman)
(ORR) "There was an explanation. The crazy thing about it is it does not show up in an X-Ray or an MRI. If you do not have any neck problems, neck history problems, there is no reason for you to get a CAT scan or anything done like that. That is why it was not detected and everything like that. Like I said, I cannot thank the Ravens enough, because they took it the extra step. I could have stopped at the MRI, but they took it the extra step [and said], 'Let's get a CAT scan done; let's make sure you are OK.' Ultimately, that helped discover it."
Does that mean because it was a congenital thing that your younger brothers need to have this screened? (Peter Schmuck)
(ORR)"From my understanding, we might get them checked out, but it is not genetics. It is not something that is family history or anything like that. My dad, he does not have it or anything like that. It is just one of those crazy deals."
You have the respect of all your teammates. You have your foundation. You have awards from the Ravens Roost, you won the Good Guy award from the Baltimore media. Can you look back at the impact you have had on the team and the community and be happy with that? (Joe Platania)
(ORR)"Yes, one thing that helped me be at peace with this is that I gave it my all – on and off the field – to the organization. They gave me a chance, and they treated me with respect and gave me their all. I had no choice and wanted to give them my all. Walking away, I can be at peace with that, because I do not have any regrets on the field or off the field. I treated people with respect, treated people how everybody deserves to be treated, and that is just the type of person I am. I always said [about] anything in my life, 'I can live with a lot of stuff, but the one thing I cannot live with is regret.' I do not have any of that in my body."