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From Career-Threating Injury To Mega Contract

Posted Mar 5, 2014

Dennis Pitta sat in an ambulance in excruciating pain just months ago, wondering if he’d ever play football again.

Seven months ago, tight end Dennis Pitta badly dislocated and fractured his hip. His career was in jeopardy.

On Wednesday, Pitta officially inked his new five-year contract worth a reported $32 million in General Manager Ozzie Newsome’s office. The very spot where he once writhed in pain was just outside the window.

It’s been a whirlwind year for the tight end to say the least. Now, he at last has security.

“You do a lot of contemplating when you are in a situation where it might be my final time ever being on the field,” Pitta said.

“It was tough. But like I said, to be able to sit here now and to have an opportunity to be on the field and be with this team for a few more years to come, it’s a blessing, and I feel so fortunate to be sitting here.”

Pitta said there was a point even two months after his hip surgery that he wasn’t sure if his body was going to get all the way back to playing shape. His future was cloudy.

So for as fortunate as Pitta feels to be able to play football again, staying with the organization that drafted him and best friend Joe Flacco makes the moment even better.

“This is special for me to have an opportunity to continue to play with this team when I didn’t know what my future held last year,” he said.

Pitta thanked Head Coach John Harbaugh for standing by him during the rehab process, encouraging him to get back on the field. He thanked Owner Steve Bisciotti and Newsome for running a great NFL franchise and making the decision to come back to Baltimore easier. He thanked Ravens Senior Vice President of Football Administration Pat Moriarty for getting the business side done.

Pitta could have tested the free agent market. If the Ravens placed the franchise tag on him, he could have tried to challenge his designation as a tight end rather than wide receiver. Pitta indicated that he might have chosen that path had it come to it, saying he would support New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham if he ends up doing so.

But Pitta chose to sign with the Ravens more than a week before free agency doors opened. Just as the Ravens stuck by him, Pitta stuck by the Ravens.

“I knew I wanted to be here, and that was a priority of mine,” he said. “So in speaking with my representatives and the team, that was something that I stressed. Whatever we have to do to get it done where I can play in a Baltimore Ravens uniform next year was a priority for me, and fortunately we were able to get it done.”

The Ravens missed Pitta badly last year. He was the reliable, third-down target they were relying on to help fill the void left by traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

Pitta was able to come back for the final four games of the season and caught 20 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown, but by then the Ravens offense had been totally shifted to try to make up for his absence.

“We didn’t have to go through the season to understand how valuable and what a good player Dennis has been,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been that way really since he got here. So it was a big blow to us.”

Pitta will now be relied on as a leader and big-time producer in the Ravens’ new offense under the guidance of Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak. Through his days in Denver and Houston, Kubiak has always leaned heavily on pass-catching tight ends.

Pitta said he’s “very excited” about the prospect of being a big part of the offense going forward, and the unit’s fresh start.

Now it’s time to produce. After sitting out much of last year, Pitta can’t wait.

“The money doesn’t mean a whole lot to me,” he said. “Obviously, it’s reassurance that you’ve been doing something right for the last few years here, and it gives me the opportunity to provide some security for my family, which is important. But now it is about being able to live up to that and being able to live up to those expectations and produce on the field, and that’s what I’m focused on.”

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