Exactly a year ago Sunday, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta was writhing in pain while being carted off the field after fracturing and dislocating his right hip.
The major injury Pitta suffered required surgery to repair the damage and sidelined him for the first dozen games of last season.
Now, Pitta says he doesn't give the hip a second thought since making a healthy return and working to regain his old form as a pass-catching tight end who's featured heavily in the Ravens' offense.
"I feel good," Pitta said. "I'm out here not thinking about it. It's not giving me an issue at all. I feel 100 percent. I'm encouraged with where I'm at."
The Ravens signed Pitta to a five-year, $32 million contract in March that included $16 million in guaranteed money to retain his services.
And new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak envisions a versatile role for Pitta in a tight end-friendly system where Pitta is routinely split out as a wide receiver, working out of the backfield or utilized in traditional in-line tight end alignments.
"Yes, the tight end position is a valuable part of this offense," Pitta said. "I think coach Kubiak does a great job of putting us in positions to succeed. I have a great tight end with me in Owen Daniels who I'm able to learn a lot from. I'm fortunate to have him here, but this is an exciting offense to be a part of."
When Pitta returned last December after being activated from the injured reserve-designated to return list, he wasn't nearly as explosive as usual. He managed to catch 20 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown in the final four games of last season, but wasn't quite the same as he was still regaining strength, flexibility and trust in his hip.
Throughout the spring and so far during the early portion of training camp, Pitta has displayed the slick hands and ability to run after the catch that became his hallmarks during the Ravens' Super Bowl championship season two years ago.
"Dennis looks good right now," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We don't put our gaze backward. We're looking forward."
Two seasons ago, Pitta caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. For his career, Pitta has 122 receptions for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Pitta has set his ambitions on an even more productive season this year.
"I think I'm very motivated," Pitta said. "Not playing very much at all last season, you just have to kind of watch and wish you were out there, watch other people do well and wish you could be out there showcasing your abilities. So, I'm excited to have that chance this year and certainly motivated to do that."
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