Raven’ Dennis Pita comes off IR, expected to play Sunday
Pitta has missed the first 12-games of the season after suffering a broken and dislocated hip during the Ravens’ first contact practice of training camp in July. At the time, the Ravens considered his hip injury to be season-ending. But Pitta returned to practice a couple of weeks ago and increased his workload this week.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh has remained hopeful throughout the week that Pitta will be able to return live action in Week 14.
“[The decision will] probably come down to the end of the week,” Harbaugh said on Monday. “I’ve got a pretty good idea that he’s doing well. It’s just a matter of how well. Is he feeling good enough? Do the doctors feel like he’s ready to play? That’s what it’s going to come down to.”
Pitta reportedly looked good in practice this week has been cleared by multiple doctors to take his first contact of the season. By Friday, Harbaugh noted that there was a “reasonable” chance Pitta would play against the Vikings, making it all the more unsurprising when he was activated in advance of the Sunday’s game.
The Ravens aren’t expected to heavily rely on Pitta early in his return, but his presence is a definite boost to the Ravens offense that ranks 29th in the NFL. Pitta’s return also provides quarterback Joe Flacco with a reliable target over the middle – especially with the Ravens’ needing help in the redzone this season. The Ravens offense is the NFL’s 23rd-ranked offense in redzone touchdown percentage this season after converting on just 28.7 percent of their attempts over the first 12 games.
"You always want to see how you're going to respond after getting hit like that," Pitta said via the team website. "It's not something that you could simulate in rehab or even in practice. It will be nice to kind of take that first hit and just see how it feels."
Without Pitta, the Ravens had to rely on Dallas Clark as their primary tight end. Clark currently leads all of Ravens’ tight ends with 31 catches, 343 yards and three touchdowns this season. Ed Dickson also stepped up in the Ravens’ passing game in Pitta’s absence.
Last season, Pitta was the Ravens’ top receiving threat at tight end, catching 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns while starting five of 16 possible games. He then added another 14 receptions and three scores in the post season to help his side win the Super Bowl XLVII.
Now, with the Ravens (6-6) pushing to pick up a Wild Card spot over the final four games of the season, the team need everybody – including Pitta – to step up to full fill their playoffs dreams this year.