“That playoff run feels like a long time ago,” the Ravens tight end said this week.
Pitta basically considers the 2013 season a lost year. On July 27, 2013, he dislocated and fractured his hip when he fell to the ground catching a pass in training camp. The anniversary isn’t too far off the horizon.
Pitta returned for the final four regular-season games, and had a storybook debut with a late touchdown catch against Minnesota, but even he said he wasn’t truly himself.
Now Pitta says he’s “reinventing” himself, and the newer version could be on the verge of a breakout season.
Pitta’s best year was in 2012 when he caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. There’s seemingly even more potential in Pitta’s sure hands and smooth routes.
“That’s what you always shoot for; you always want the breakout year,” Pitta said.
“I think there is a little more excitement for me than usual. When you don’t get to play a major role like you thought you would originally, it excites you to be back.”
The Ravens already expressed their faith in the fifth-year tight end, re-signing him to a reported five-year, $32 million deal.
Now Pitta is in a great position to deliver. He’s healthy, he’s in a tight-end friendly system and he has more weapons around him to take off some heat.
His health may be the most important note.
When Pitta signed his new contract in late February, he said he was still trying to get to 100 percent. Pitta said he didn’t have any pain, but his quickness and explosion wasn’t all the way back. He has improved since then, but still says there’s some progress to be made.
“I feel good. I feel really healthy. I feel 100 percent,” he said. “But there are still things that I work through. I would say I’m on my way to getting all the way back.”
To the naked eye, Pitta is gliding around the field like he always has. He is quick off the line of scrimmage and in and out of breaks, the little things that get him open.
Pitta has already gotten a lot of work in during organized team activities (OTAs) and will continue to do so. No offense targeted tight ends more over the past three years than Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak’s did in Houston.
“It’s a fun system to play in and I’m excited to learn and grow,” Pitta said
“The system is set up for receivers to have big years and for tight ends to catch a lot of footballs. Owen [Daniels] has proven that over the years. Hopefully I can find a similar role.
Daniels averaged 577 receiving yards and nearly four touchdowns a year during his eight years in Houston. When he was healthy for a full season (or very close to it), Daniels averaged over 750 yards and more than 60 catches.
“We will [catch a lot of balls]. That’s just the way this offense is built,” Daniels said with a grin. “I’m sure Dennis will be happy with it.
Pitta does have some learning to do, however. He said he’s “drinking out of a fire hose” right now, trying to catch up on Kubiak’s offense. While it suits him well, the terminology and even how the routes are run are different. Pitta’s been relying on Daniels for help in that area.
“You constantly try to reinvent yourself as a player, learn more about how to become better,” Pitta said. “I have a lot of things I can improve on. Sitting out last year, I think it puts me at a little disadvantage of taking the next step forward. I’m working hard to try to get to where I want to be.”