Tight end Dennis Pitta’s absence for the first 12 games of the 2013 season was a big reason why the Ravens offense struggled last year.
Now, nearly 11 months after Pitta had surgery to repair a dislocated, fractured right hip, Pitta is armed with a new contract and said that his hip “feels great” and he is back to full health.
“It’s nothing I even think about when I’m at practice,” Pitta said Tuesday. “That’s a good sign. I feel like I’m at 100 percent and able to run and do what I need to do.”
Pitta also said his explosiveness has returned, which “was a process.” Pitta returned for the final four games of 2013, and caught 20 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.
The year before, he caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. His performance before the injury, and the emerging importance of the tight end position, earned Pitta a five-year, $32 million contract that kept him from free agency this spring.
His regained health and new contract come at a time when Pitta could thrive in first-year offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s West Coast offense.
“It’s a fun offense to be a part of as a tight end,” Pitta said. “It’s still a learning curve for me. I’m still making mistakes and trying to work my way through it. I think when it all comes together, I think we’re really going to like the finished product.”
Throughout the spring, Pitta has lined up all over the offense. He's seen time split out wide, and also flanking the quarterback in the backfield. Pitta said his role may increase more, but he’s trying to get the base offense down during the spring before he can get in a position to be moved around the field even more.
Pitta needs to only look across the huddle at veteran tight end Owen Daniels to see what kind of production is possible in the offense. Daniels’ first year in Houston was Kubiak’s first year as head coach, and in the eight subsequent seasons, Daniels averaged just over 48 catches and 577 yards per season with 28 total touchdowns.
“Owen has been a huge complement to what we’re doing here,” Pitta said. “He’s, No. 1, a great football player. He’s had a lot of success in this league and continues to make plays out here. He’s been critical for me to be able to learn from. He’s been in this offense for, I think, eight or nine years and done a great job at it, so I’m able to bounce questions off him, see how he runs certain routes, and how he does things and it helps me become better.”