OWINGS MILLS -Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta likely broke his hand Monday afternoon and will require surgery to repair the damage, a setback for one of the most reliable players on the offense
Pitta is expected to be sidelined until the Ravens' regular-season opener Sept. 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Although a magnetic resonance imaging exam and X-rays will be conducted today to confirm the initial diagnosis, the Ravens are concerned that Pitta will be out for the entire preseason.
It's the first major injury suffered by the Ravens since training camp opened last week at team headquarters.
"It looks like he broke his hand," Harbaugh said. "It looks like he'll have to get it repaired in some form or fashion. Should be back for the first regular-season game, but that's very tentative and I'm a little ahead of myself there. I shouldn't really say because I really don't know, but it's not going to be that long."
Arguably possessing the surest hands on the team, Pitta emerged as one of quarterback Joe Flacco's favorite receivers last season.
Although Ed Dickson is the starting tight end and caught 54 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns last season, Pitta played in every game and caught a career-high 40 passes for 505 yards and three touchdowns.
Pitta tied a career-high with six receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown during the Ravens' 24-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular-season finale, contributing to Baltimore winning the AFC North division title.
He also caught five passes for 41 yards and a touchdown in the AFC championship game loss to the New England Patriots.
Pitta left practice accompanied by a trainer to have his hand examined.
Teammates were initially unaware that Pitta had gotten hurt.
"I didn't know that," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. "He's definitely an important part of our offense. I think you saw him last year play a big role, especially when it came down the stretch."
At 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, the former fourth-round draft pick from Brigham Young caught 221 passes for 2,901 yards and 21 touchdowns for his career.
One of Flacco's closest friends, Pitta is capable of lining up at wide receiver or fullback in a pinch.
"Dennis is a guy that can play inside, a guy that we can line up outside, get different mismatches," Boldin said. "So, he's a nightmare for defenses across the board. So, it's a good thing when he's on the field."
Now, former fifth-round pick Davon Drew will take the bulk of the work behind Dickson until Pitta returns.
The Ravens could also sign a tight end for depth. The other tight ends on the roster are undrafted rookies Bruce Figgins and Matt Balasavage.
"Davon seemed like he did well, just watching off the field," Harbaugh said. "I'll have to watch the tape. It seemed like he did all right."