Ravens TE Den­nis Pitta prac­tices at full health, not con­cerned with in­jured hip

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By SEAN GRO­GAN

sgro­gan@ce­cil­whig.com

— On the sec­ond day of Ravens train­ing camp, quar­ter­back Joe Flacco looked to an old, re­li­able tar­get.

The pass wasn’t an easy catch for Den­nis Pitta to make, but the tight end stretched to get his fin­gers on the ball. He se­cured it safely as he fell to the ground.

Fans might still hold their breath when he hits the turf, but Pitta no longer sec­ond guesses the sta­bil­ity of his twice-in­jured hip. Pitta looked like his old self through­out the morn­ing prac­tice, show­ing no lin­ger­ing signs of the hip in­juries that have kept him off of the field for nearly three sea­sons.

“My hip feels good. I’m two days in and not wor­ried about it at all. I’m mov­ing like I want to,” he said. “Hon­estly, there’s noth­ing I do on the field that I worry about or even think about it, or it gives me a dif­fer­ent feel­ing bend­ing this way or twist­ing that way … It’s not some­thing through­out the course of a prac­tice that I’m even think­ing about one bit – which is good, which is re­ally pos­i­tive.”

Pitta dis­lo­cated and frac­tured his hip dur­ing 2013 train­ing camp. He suf­fered the same in­jury in

OWINGS MILLS

Week 3 of the 2014 sea­son with­out any con­tact.

Pitta spent the en­tire 2015 sea­son on the phys­i­cally un­able to per­form (PUP) list.

“It was re­ally tough, be­cause I didn’t get to play at all last year and I re­ally wanted to. I made a big ef­fort and pushed to get on the field af­ter those weeks I sat on the PUP,” he said. “I prob­a­bly could have forced it last year, but it just didn’t quite feel right. Now it does. That’s re­ally the dif­fer­ence. I was run­ning and I prac­ticed for three weeks com­ing off PUP. By my own stan­dards, I felt like I looked pretty good and was run­ning well, but the feel and what I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing post-prac­tice wasn’t ex­actly what I wanted. That’s why we were hes­i­tant in com­ing back. Now I don’t have any of those is­sues.”

Whether or not Pitta would re­turn to foot­ball af­ter he was not cleared to play last sea­son re­mained in doubt. He re­struc­tured his con­tract and an­nounced his re­turn in April.

“Last year when I was try­ing to come off PUP, it still didn’t quite feel right,” Pitta said. “We knew we needed to give it more time, right­fully so. I’m at this point and feel good and don’t have any lin­ger­ing is­sues or thoughts about it. I think we played it smart last year and did what we needed to do. I’m in a good po­si­tion now and feel good.”

He said he wants to re­claim his spot as the lead tight end on a Ravens team that is jam packed at the po­si­tion. Pitta feels he has not lost a step since he was Flacco’s top tight end.

Pitta has caught 138 passes for 1,369 and 11 touch­downs in 50 ca­reer games with Bal­ti­more. The 2010 fourth-round pick emerged as Flacco’s fa­vorite tar­get dur­ing the 2012 Su­per Bowl cam­paign in which he caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touch­downs.

“It doesn’t feel any dif­fer­ent than it did a cou­ple of years ago when we were out there throw­ing the ball around. I don’t think those kinds of things go away,” Pitta said of his chem­istry with Flacco, who is re­turn­ing from an ACL in­jury. “He knows what I’m think­ing. He knows where I’m go­ing to be on cer­tain routes and vice versa. I think we’re both com­fort­able with each other, and now it’s just about get­ting our legs un­der us and mak­ing sure we’re com­fort­able within the of­fense.”

Fol­low Sean Gro­gan on Twit­ter: @Sean_Ce­cilWhig

CECIL WHIG PHOTO BY SEAN GRO­GAN

Ravens tight end Den­nis Pitta ap­pears com­pletely healthy af­ter his sec­ond ma­jor hip in­jury.

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