Should the Baltimore Ravens bring Dennis Pitta back this season?


The Baltimore Ravens will get a huge boost to their morale as they welcome tight end Dennis Pitta back to the practice field today. It will be his first action since taking part in portions of organized team activities in June as he has been on the physically unable to perform list and was ineligible to play for the first six regular-season games. Pitta can play Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals, but it remains to be seen if Pitta can truly get back into NFL action.

There is no rush to get Pitta back on the field right away. He is eligible to practice immediately and does not take up a roster spot in the time being. He can practice for up to three weeks before the Ravens will be forced to make a decision on whether he will be activated to the 53-man roster, which subsequently would mean someone else would have to go, or be placed on season-ending injured reserve. The chances of him playing right away are minimal as Head Coach John Harbaugh indicated earlier today.

“We’ll see how it goes. I wouldn’t make too much of it, especially for this week,” Harbaugh said. “Don’t get carried away. Probably the bigger thing is how he feels today, but how he feels tomorrow and the next day and the day after that after practicing.”

So while the Ravens will be joyed to welcome back a familiar face, what does he bring to the table after two hip surgeries?

There has not been a lot to cheer for this season at 1-5 and arguably the worst team in a Ravens history, but the team has to be ecstatic about the play of their young tight ends. Crockett Gillmore entered the season as kind of an unknown with limited opportunities last season. He has stepped up when his number has been called and has been Joe Flacco‘s most consistent target other than Steve Smith. While 13 catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns does not seem like much, he has missed time with a calf injury.

The Ravens entered this offseason with the uncertainty surrounding Pitta and decided to select two tight ends in the NFL Draft in Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle. They moved up three spots in the second round to take Williams, who was drawing comparisons to Todd Heap during the draft process. He’s responded well as a rookie, recording 12 receptions for 108 yards and has had to start three games with Gillmore missing time with injury.

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The second part of the Delaware-to-Delaware connection, Boyle, has been a major surprise for Baltimore. You never know what to expect from players taken in the third day of the draft, but the Ravens found themselves a player in Boyle. He has caught eight of the nine passes thrown his way for 58 yards, but is also a presence as a blocker as well. The other tight ends are more receiving threats, while Boyle does offer some flexibility. Prior to training camp, most people said that it would be Boyle as the odd man out if Pitta was ready to start the season. He has found his niche in this offense so it is unlikely he will go anywhere.

So where does that leave Pitta?

Prior to his injury, Pitta was a threat in the middle of the field. His height created matchup problems against smaller secondary players, but his speed made him difficult to cover by linebackers. He was one of Flacco’s favorite targets because he excelled at making the touch catches. He has always made plays for the Ravens when he has been on the field.

The problem is we are now talking about a player who has only played seven meaningful games of football in the past two seasons. One of those hip injuries happened on a play with no one around him. It also was not too encouraging that Harbaugh was hesitant to say whether Pitta has been cleared to play by doctors.

The Ravens are desperately looking for playmakers as the receiving corps has been a disappointment outside Steve Smith. While the tight ends have made plays, they aren’t the type of players that can change a game. This offense is best served spreading the ball around and keeping defenses on their toes. The addition of Pitta would give Flacco another option in the passing game. Flacco could surely use any weapon available to him right now.

What everyone needs to remember is this is no guarantee. Pitta is getting back onto the practice field hoping that his hip can hold up. It’s possible that another blow to that hip not only jeopardizes his NFL career, but his life going forward. That seems to be a risk he is willing to take.

There is little reason for Pitta or the Ravens to do anything that could do harm down the road. Pitta is already guaranteed the entirety of his $4 million base salary this season. The Ravens have three tight ends on the roster that deserve to be with this team, and rarely have teams carried four tight ends. Pitta is coming off two hip surgeries. He is not in football shape. Personally, I think the best decision is to shut him down for the remainder of this season as well and allow him to fully get healthy.

It is a good story in an otherwise down season for the Ravens that one of the fan favorites is looking like he is slowly coming back into form. Everyone wants to see him back on the football field, but no one wants to see him get hurt again. Let’s hope No. 88 is making plays in a Ravens uniform soon.

“I’m happy for Dennis. I’m happy he can get out here and do what he loves to do,” Harbaugh said.

Could not agree more, Coach.

Next: Is this the worst Ravens team in franchise history?

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