Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta was activated from injured reserve-designated to return today prior to a 4 p.m. NFL deadline, clearing the way for him to play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Pitta participated in team drills all week without incident, including making a diving catch for a touchdown, landing on his surgically-repaired right hip and bouncing up unfazed, according to a source.
The Ravens cut veteran running back Bernard Scott to create a roster spot for Pitta.
Pitta is expected to have a limited role in his first game back Sunday after fracturing and dislocating his hip on July 27 when he got tangled up with strong safety James Ihedigbo on a high end zone pass from Joe Flacco and landed awkwardly on his hip.
"Ultimately, it's up to me and how I feel," Pitta said Friday in the Ravens' locker room after his third practice of the week. "It's a rare injury in sports, so the doctors are relying on me to see how I feel and how my body responds and all that.
Pitta, 28, is one of Flacco's most trusted targets because of his sound hands, sharp routes and ability to compete for contested catches as a productive red zone threat with a large catch radius. In the regular season and playoffs last season, Pitta caught 75 passes for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Ravens have struggled in the red zone over the past few weeks, scoring just one touchdown in eight red zone opportunities. The Ravens rank 24th in the NFL in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 19 of 39 trips inside opponents' 20-yard line for a 48.7 percentage.
“He’s one of those move tight ends who can be a matchup nightmare for a defense trying to cover him with a linebacker or even some safeties," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "He presents some matchup problems for you sometimes. He's a very good route runner, and he's got good hands as well. It seems like Joe really likes to get the football to him, so he presents some problems.”
Under NFL rules, the Ravens had until next Wednesday to activate Pitta or be forced to place him on season-ending injured reserve. As it turned out, they didn't need that long to make the decision to get Pitta back on the active roster.
Pitta's ability to operate at slot receiver should add some flexibility to the Ravens' offense. Without Pitta, tight ends Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark have combined for 47 catches for 554 yards and three touchdowns.
"He's just a good player," Flacco said this week. "He’s got good body presence and a lot of things that he does well in his routes that give you a good indicator. He catches the ball, he runs well, he separates. There are a lot of things that he does well. I think overall he just helps your whole offense.”