The Zachary Orr Comeback Tour has entailed several visits to several teams but no offers, yet. And there may not be any.
Ultimately, a team doctor will have to clear Orr to play. The nature of Orr’s injury and the current climate in the NFL will make it hard for any team doctor to put his or her name at the bottom of a piece of paper allowing Orr to assume the risk of potentially serious injury or worse arising from a rare neck condition that Ravens doctors found late in the 2016 season.
Former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, whose own career was cut short by a neck injury, knows it will be hard for Orr to get back in.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” Finley told Dom Cosentino of Deadspin.com. “Zach is a great guy. I’ve followed him in the NFL — awesome, awesome guy. But at the end of the day, the league has their butts to cover, and teams have their butts to cover, so I think it’s going to be difficult for him to get on a team. Especially with all the head injuries, the settlements that’s coming out. It’s going to be very tough for any guy that had a neck or head injury to get back in the NFL from this point on.”
Finley’s instincts are likely accurate. Doctors won’t want to be responsible for the possibility of a worst-case scenario, and the last thing the NFL needs after a player suffering a debilitating injury or worse during a game would be a player who had been flagged as presenting the risk of a debilitating injury or worse suffering a debilitating injury or worse during a game.
That doesn’t mean Orr absolutely won’t be cleared to play. For some teams (like the Cowboys, for example), a combination of factors from need to obsession with winning to an owner who also is the G.M. could result in enough pressure being placed on a doctor to let Orr assume the risk that, as a grown man, he’s willing to accept. But, as Finley said, it’s going to be tough.