For the first time since suffering a season-ending fractured and dislocated hip that required surgery, including the removal of a small bone fragment, tight end Dennis Pitta returned to the Ravens' training complex Thursday.
He is on crutches and scheduled to begin his rehabilitation in six to eight weeks.
Ed Dickson has replaced Pitta at tight end, but making up for his pass-catching contributions is expected to be a collective effort.
"Obviously, I think what you do is look at the unit, you have to be able to play to your strengths," offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said. "Dennis brought some things to the table. Now, we've got to look at some other guys to do some other things and what they do well, try to figure it out. We may call on some to expand their role just a little bit. We're working our way through."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh noted that rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk could operate in a multi-faceted role, including tight end and H-back as a move fullback.
“Juszczyk is a very, very versatile guy," Caldwell said. He does a nice job, not only from the fullback spot, but also, he can line up at a number of different positions. He runs routes well. He has very, very good hands, and he’s smart enough to learn multiple positions. So, he’s one of those guys. We have a number of guys who I think would be able to play multiple roles for us.”
With Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach now back on the team, the Ravens have bolstered their running game.
"Obviously he’s a Pro Bowl fullback, a big, strong, powerful guy who does a great job of establishing himself in terms of the run game," Caldwell said. "But he’s also very, very athletic enough to get out on the flanks and catch the ball. We’ve expanded him as well, used him in formations where it’s not just your typical fullback location, and he’s done very well. To have him back in the fold is great for us.”
The primary replacement for Pitta, Dickson fell to 21 receptions last season as he had injuries and was primarily utilized as a blocker while Pitta emerged as one of quarterback Joe Flacco's favorite targets.
Two seasons ago, Dickson caught a career-high 54 passes for five touchdowns.
"Ed is big, strong, fast -- a very, very capable guy," Caldwell said. "You can see he can stretch the field, run and catch. He’s been doing that for quite some time. We just might have to do some things to maybe even get the ball to him a little bit more from time to time. But he’s going to be an integral part of what we do.”
The initial reviews on Dickson have been positive.
"I just think that he’s been maturing, been coming along, getting better and better each and every year," Caldwell said. "He really started to come on last year. You could see him really start to show up during the playoffs, and I think he’s just building on that. I think that Ed has always had a good sense of self. I think he knows himself extremely well.
"There are areas that he certainly looks to improve. He’s been working on his blocking on the line of scrimmage and in-line blocking, things of that nature. He’s improving. He has worked on every phase of his game: route running and catching the ball. I think you’re going to continue to see him develop and get better and better and better. We’ve been really pleased with him.”