CLEVELAND -- Ravens starting tight end Dennis Pitta was carted off the field Sunday after suffering a potential season-ending hip injury without even being touched.
Pitta dislocated his right hip for the second time in just more than a year, and it's feared that he may have also sustained a fracture. But an initial diagnosis revealed no fracture, according to sources. If Pitta's hip is fractured, he would need surgery and likely would be out for the season. Pitta remained in Cleveland overnight at a local hospital.
Pitta fractured and dislocated his hip during training camp last year and missed all but the final four games of the 2013 regular season after making a full recovery. He signed a five-year, $32 million contract in March that included $16 million guaranteed.
When he underwent surgery on his hip last year, doctors told Pitta there the chance of recurrence was extremely low because of the rarity of the injury and how well the procedure and rehabilitation went.
"A second fracture and dislocation to the same hip is relatively rare," said Dr. David Chao, a former San Diego Chargers team doctor who is an orthopedic surgical specialist, but hasn't treated Pitta. "This is a significant trauma. It's very concerning. It doesn't bode well for his career. Even to do this one time is unusual, but twice is very bad.
"What may be going on is he doesn't have enough bone back there to support the hip, which is a ball-and-socket joint. The emergency right now is making sure that he has enough blood getting to the joint. Otherwise, there's a chance you develop avascular necrosis in the hip. That's what ended Bo Jackson's career."
Pitta was transported to a hospital for X-rays and further examination. He remained overnight in Cleveland. He also is expected to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam to determine if there's any ligament damage after being injured in the second quarter during a 23-21 win over the Cleveland Browns.
This represents a significant blow to the Ravens' offense, which relies heavily on Pitta's reliable hands and ability to run after the catch. Pitta ranks second on the team behind wide receiver Steve Smith with 16 receptions for 125 yards.
"When you're in the middle of a game, you don't think too much about that stuff, but, yeah, it's not easy," said quarterback Joe Flacco, one of Pitta's closest friends on the team. "Dennis is a good friend. He's a good teammate, and he's a [heck] of a player. No matter who it is, it's tough to see that happen, especially when it looks like it might be what it is, or it might be serious."
Pitta was clearly in serious pain after going down in the second quarter after his third reception of the game, covering his face with his hands as he was taken off the field.
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Now, Pitta's health has emerged again as a serious issue for a Ravens offense that relies heavily on tight ends. Pitta caught 13 passes for 113 yards in the first two games.
"That's kind of devastating," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "Dennis isn't just our teammate, he's a really close friend of ours. To see him go down like that, it hurts. We wish him a speedy recovery. We have to push forward, and other guys have to make the most of their opportunities."
Without Pitta, the Ravens will have to rely heavily on two-time Pro Bowl tight end Owen Daniels, who caught two touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second game of the season.
Rookie tight end Crockett Gillmore also will have to contribute more, and the Ravens could promote tight end Phillip Supernaw from the practice squad.
"I don't know how serious it is, I haven't heard," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Pitta. "He told me on the field that it wasn't as bad as it was before. I don't know what that means. I'm just going to be praying and hoping for the best for him. That was so disappointing."