Competing for starting roles in the NFL is unusual in that players who are friends are vying for a few coveted spots.
And in many cases, the starters willingly share their wisdom with the reserves despite trying to remain at their positions. For instance, cornerback Domonique Foxworth has been seen counseling rookie Jimmy Smith, defensive end Cory Redding routinely talks to rookie Pernell McPhee, and wide receiver Anquan Boldin has worked with Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss.
At tight end, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta are competing for the right to succeed Todd Heap as the starter. Dickson, a third-round pick last year, and Pitta, a fourth-rounder, are very close friends who are roommates on road trips during the regular season.
So is it weird to compete with a friend for the same job?
"Ed and I get along great," Pitta said after Sunday evening's practice at the team's training facility in Owings Mills. "We've been good friends and roommates for the past year now. We understand we're in competition with one another, but I think it's fun. We push each other and make each other better. It's been a good relationship."Added Dickson: "I would say we're like adopted brothers. I didn't know him at all in college, but when we got here, there was this bond that I can't explain. He's like my brother, and when he's out there making plays, it makes me smile because we share the load this year. I need him this year, and he needs me this year. We're going to use each other, and we're going to fill in that spot."
Their friendship extends beyond the locker room. Mataya Pitta, Dennis Pitta's wife, and Ashley Swartz, Dickson's fiancé, are also tight. Pitta, a recreational golfer who is already shooting in the mid 80s after picking up the sport just two years ago, has offered to teach Dickson how to golf, and Dickson, a talented basketball player and Los Angeles Lakers fan, promised to show Pitta some moves on the basketball court.
"We joke around," Dickson said. "He likes to golf, and I like to play basketball. So we try to do things together. Our ladies are actually really good friends, too. So that makes it even better."
Pitta said their friendship won't be impacted by the result of their competition to start in the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11.
"I think it's about separating football from everything else and understanding that this is our job," he said. "Obviously, we're competing every day, but it's for the team. Whether one of us starts or not, we're both going to do what we can to help this team be successful, and that's what it's all about. We understand that, and I think that's what helps our relationship on and off the field."