Dennis Pitta casually strolled off the practice field Sunday, mingled with fans, met with reporters and then headed into the locker room with a smile on his face.
It was a much different scene than a year ago.
On the third day of last year's training camp practice, Pitta was carted off the field because of a fractured and dislocated hip that he suffered trying to make a diving catch over the middle of the field. The injury was initially thought to be career threatening, and it ended up sidelining Pitta for the first 12 games of the season.
All of that is now mostly an afterthought.
"I'm out here not thinking about it," Pitta said. "It's not giving me an issue at all. I feel 100 percent. I'm encouraged with where I'm at."
"We're not gazing backward on all that; we're looking forward," Head Coach John Harbaugh added.
The fractured hip was the first significant injury of Pitta's career, and spending the season cooped up in the training room impacted his approach to the game. His absence was a significant blow to the offense that struggled to overcome his loss, and he's determined to return to his old form with a bounce-back season.
"I'm very motivated," said Pitta, who is entering his fifth season. "Not playing very much at all last season, you just have to kind of watch and wish you were out there, watch other people do well and wish you could be out there showcasing your abilities. I'm excited to have that chance this year and certainly motivated to do that."
Pitta surprised a lot of people when he returned from what was considered a season-ending injury to play the final four games of the season. He acknowledged that he wasn't necessarily himself when he returned, but he still finished the year with 20 catches for 169 yards and a touchdown.
He played well enough to convince the Ravens that he could be a long-term fixture in Baltimore, and the team re-signed him to a five-year contract in February reportedly worth $32 million.
The expectation for this season is that Pitta will be an integral part of the system under new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak, who has a long history of featuring the tight end.
"The tight end position is a valuable part of this offense, and I think Coach [Gary] Kubiak does a great job of putting us in positions to succeed," Pitta said.
The best season of Pitta's career came during the Super Bowl season of 2012 where he caught 61 passes for 669 yards and a team-leading seven touchdowns. Now that Pitta is back to full strength and with the arrival of Kubiak's tight-end friendly offense, Pitta could be on the path to get back to that kind of production in 2014.
"We feel really good with where we're at," Pitta said. "We're more comfortable, and I think we're able to play faster, and that's helping our execution."