Ravens veteran tight end Dennis Pitta has been working diligently to rehabilitate and strengthen his surgically-repaired right hip for the second time.
Pitta has made significant progress, upgrading his mobility and range of motion to the point where he can run routes and catch passes during individual drills. He even jumped high into the air after catching a pass Wednesday and executed a lay-up over the goal post. Pitta stuck the landing, and his twice-fractured and dislocated hip held up fine.
While Pitta appears healthier, he's not medically cleared for full-team drills.
"Dennis is out there for about half the practice and he's doing a good job, too," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "So, we're not counting him out at all."
Signed to a five-year, $32 million contract in 2013 that includes $16 million guaranteed, Pitta is guaranteed $4 million for this year regardless of whether he's able to play again.
Pitta wants badly to get back on the field, but the question that can't be answered by doctors is how susceptible he is to suffering another injury to his hip.
When Pitta first broke and dislocated his hip during an awkward training camp fall two years ago, doctors assured him and the Ravens that his chance of suffering another injury was less than 10 percent.
However, Pitta managed to break and dislocate the hip without being hit last September against the Cleveland Browns. Before that, he had displayed no signs of weakness in the hip.
The risk remains high, but Pitta is attempting to play because of his love for the game and desire to contribute. The good news for Pitta is he's improved to the point where he can do all normal athletic activities.
The Ravens have hedged their bets at the position. They selected pass-catching tight end Maxx Williams in the second round of the NFL draft and blocking tight end Nick Boyle in the fifth round. Crockett Gillmore, one of the team's third-round draft picks last year, is the projected starter.
The most likely scenario is Pitta will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list to save a spot on the active roster. Then, the Ravens can activate him whenever they want to or have him begin the season on the reserve list and miss at least the first six games of the regular season.
"He's going to continue to work and he'll come back," Gillmore said. "Obviously, he's put up great numbers for us and we're better with him."
Aiken looks good
Meanwhile, wide receiver Kamar Aiken has continued to build on the momentum he started last December, when he was occasionally a downfield option for quarterback Joe Flacco.
An undrafted free agent from Central Florida, Aiken caught 24 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns last season. He figures to play a role on offense and special teams despite the addition of first-round wide receiver Breshad Perriman.
Aiken combines size, speed, toughness, agility, good hands and route-running skills. He had one of his stronger performances on Wednesday. He caught a long touchdown pass, made some impressive sideline receptions and scored a red-zone touchdown. Aiken worked with the starters this week.
Big year for Osemele
Left guard Kelechi Osemele is heading into a pivotal year in his career.
In the final year of his contract, Osemele has established himself as one of the best young guards in the game. He could also be on his way out of Baltimore.
The Ravens are unlikely to be able to afford two expensive guard deals because Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda is also a pending unrestricted free agent.
Osemele is unlikely to give the Ravens a hometown discount, according to NFL sources.
Regardless of whether this is Osemele's last season with the Ravens, he's been impressive in practice sessions. Osemele provides a mauling blocking presence at the point of attack and is quick enough to get downfield and block more than one defender per play.
No deals are imminent for Yanda or Osemele, but it's likely the Ravens will re-sign Yanda and Osemele will cash in with another team as one of the top free agents next year.
Backup quarterback Matt Schaub had a rough first week, throwing interceptions and continuing the negative trend of turnovers that caused him to wash out with the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders. This week, though, Schaub was far more accurate, decisive and productive.