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Byrne Identity: Dennis Pitta Talks 'Excruciating' Injury, Coming Back

Posted Aug 30, 2013

The Ravens tight end details the pain he endured and the tough decisions his family faced on July 27.

Dennis Pitta Talks About The Injury And Coming Back

It was July 27, the third day of camp for Ravens veterans.

Tight end Dennis Pitta heard the call at the line of scrimmage, looked at the defense and recognized that the ball would likely come to him in the end zone.

"It was a play where I have to beat the linebacker up the middle and then get ready for a jump ball in the end zone," Pitta explained on Wednesday. "It was a play we feel like we've run a million times. Joe (Flacco) put the ball up nice and high where I could get it. I went up, grabbed the ball, and as I was coming down ... It's a little bit of a blur from there.

"As I was landing," Pitta continued, "I felt all my weight shift to my right side. It felt weird, different than anything before. But, for whatever reason, I knew my hip had popped out. I just knew that that had happened."

Pain Is Severe

"The safety (James Ihedigbo) had his arm under me, and he knew from my moans that I was hurt, and he didn't want to move. I tried to twist a little to let him move, but my body barely responded. I've never felt pain like that, and I've never had any type of dislocation, but I knew something dramatic had happened," Dennis said calmly on Wednesday.

"They told me that you usually see this type of injury in major car crashes. I had my knees up in my chest, kind of in a fetal position. I didn't want to move, but I wanted to find a position that would relieve some of the pain," Pitta explained. "The trainers were there in a hurry. I remember saying, 'I think my hip is out.' I remember seeing John (Harbaugh) standing right over me.

"One of the trainers told me that they had to get me up on the cart. I couldn't move, and I knew if they moved me, it would be worse. I mean, it was excruciating pain. They got me up, and I put a towel over my head and bit into it. Every bump on the field I felt. I focused on enduring the pain and trying to avoid it. It was pretty intense. I was gripping the sides of the cart with all my strength, trying to keep still. Dr. (Leigh Ann) Curl met the cart and, after a quick examination, told me, ‘I think you dislocated your hip.’” (Dr. Curl is the Ravens' chief orthopedic doctor.)

"She tried to put the hip back in place, explaining to me that if she could slide it back in, there would be some relief from all the pain. My body reacted by going stiff, trying to protect from any movement and more pain. I couldn't relax. I realized there was no chance that she was going to manipulate me," a wincing Pitta remembered.

"They had an ambulance for me very quickly. Now, sliding me off that cart onto a stretcher was tough. I was in full pads. I started biting the top of my jersey to change my focus. They tried to lift me, and I said, 'You can't. Put me down. I might pass out.' They eventually slid a board under me and moved me that way.”

Liberty Road Is Bumpy

"The ride to the hospital was something," Pitta chuckled. "We were heading to Union Memorial, and they took me on Liberty Road to get to the beltway. I've driven on Liberty a lot. I never realized how bumpy it is. Every little turn and bump hurt more. We were weaving in and out of traffic. I thought to myself, 'Why aren't we taking 795 to the beltway? Isn't that a smoother road?' The seconds were slow in passing. They had an IV with morphine in it, and that did nothing. That pain, I can still remember it vividly," Dennis said. "The pain was too intense for the medication."

At The Hospital (Union Memorial)

Once they arrived at Union Memorial, Dr. Curl explained to Pitta that he would need to be "put under" by an anesthesiologist. "She called my wife for permission, and I was able to talk with Mataya for a little bit. That was so hard on her. She was in Arizona with our two-month-old son (Decker). That was a hard call for her.

"Then, during the surgery, they had to call Mataya again, because they couldn't slide my hip back in, and I was going to have to have surgery. I had chipped away a bone fragment, and that was preventing the hip from going back. I understand they told her that this could be career threatening, and my season was over. She wanted to make sure I would be healthy again and be able to walk and play with our son. The docs wanted a fast decision, because they were worried about the blood flow to the area. She gave them the OK.

"When I woke up, I didn't realize all that happened. I had this long slit over my hip, and they explained what they had done. It was kind of a wild time. Dr. (Robert) Brumback did the surgery, assisted by Dr. Curl. He has done a lot of these surgeries – all on car accident victims. It was hard sitting there, hearing things like, 'This could end your football career.' I had a ton of texts from almost everyone on the team. That helped. Plus, I heard from other friends and all of the family. Mataya was there the next day. That helped a lot.''

"It has been tough," Pitta explained. "There's the pain, there's the burden on my family and the fact that you're not with the team. It will be really weird when I'm sitting at home, and we're playing at Denver next Thursday. The preseason is a little easier to miss. I've never been hurt like this. You think, 'I should be with my teammates.'" 

Pitta Wants To Play This Season

"I would love to play this season," Pitta said after I saw him walking in our swim-ex machine in the Ravens' training room. It was the first time I saw Dennis without his crutches. "I think there's a possibility of me coming back. There's also the possibility that I won't be back until next season. I'm prepared for both decisions. Right now, I'm taking it day-to-day and doing everything they allow me to do. I'm getting stronger every day," Pitta said as he headed to a machine that allows him to strengthen his shoulders.

How great would it be to have Dennis Pitta back in a Ravens' uniform late this season? Ozzie Newsome and team trainers and doctors will have that thorough and thoughtful discussion over the next week. 

A Visit From The Nuns 

On Tuesday, nuns from the Oblate Sisters of Providence visited the Ravens and watched part of practice. The Oblates are the first Catholic sisterhood in the world established by women of African descent. They run the oldest continuously operating school in the United States, St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, for predominantly African-American children. They beamed as players and Coach Harbaugh visited with them after practice. 

A little while later, the nuns were given a tour of the facility by Darren Sanders, our director of security who invited the group. As they passed the large player in the hallway, the big tackle stopped them and said: "Hi, I'm Michael Oher. It's nice to meet you." One of the nuns giggled: "Seeing you just made my day." Michael smiled widely. 

Ray Lewis Working Out 

Talked with Ray Lewis a few days ago about plans for his Ring of Honor ceremony. When I asked him what he was doing with his time, he laughed and said, "I'm busy. I'm working with a voice coach who is helping me get ready for my ESPN work. I have three sons playing football, and it works perfectly. One plays on Thursday, one on Friday, and then my oldest plays on Saturday for Miami. I'll go to all of them." 

When I asked Ray if he was working out, he chuckled. “Just finished an old school ab workout with the wheel on the floor, and later I’m going on a two-hour competitive bike ride with some guys,” Lewis said. Hope his fellow bikers are ready to be challenged.

Talk with you next week,

Kevin

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