Head Coach John Harbaugh opening statement: *"Good to see everybody. We just don't get together enough this time of year, do we? *(laughter) This is a very positive opportunity to get together, and I couldn't be more excited or happier for the Ravens, of course, but also for Dennis and his family. It's really a special thing in pro football. Guys have a chance, they work hard, the sacrifices that they make and their families make just to make it in the NFL, just to play one game in the NFL, is a great accomplishment. Very few people get a chance to do it. But to get to the point where you get to this contract opportunity – your second contract – and you get a chance to make a difference financially for your family and in life, that's just an amazing thing. And it's definitely something to be celebrated and to be proud of. From the Ravens perspective, we couldn't be happier that we have Dennis Pitta as a part of our future going forward. He's a great football player and an even better person, and we plan on having a lot of success offensively and as a team with Dennis catching passes for us for many years to come."
TE Dennis Pitta opening statement:* *"Thank you. I just want to quickly [say], first and foremost, I am incredibly excited to be a Baltimore Raven going forward. This is one of the best franchises around the NFL and in sports. I want to thank [owner] Steve Bisciotti first for his faith in me [and] for the type of organization that he has here in Baltimore, and then obviously [executive vice president/general manager) Ozzie [Newsome] and Coach Harbaugh for their support [and] their belief in me. Last year was a tough year for me, and Coach Harbaugh stood by me every step of the way – always encouraging me, always letting me know that he was looking forward to me being back on the field. And I was fortunate to get back on the field and now be able to sit here today and say I have another great opportunity to continue this journey and be a Baltimore Raven. Lastly, I want to thank (senior vice president of football administration) Pat Moriarty for all his work in getting the business side of it done so that now we can just focus on football."
**Not long after you first got hurt you talked about your bumpy ride to the hospital. Were there bumpy times in your rehab, and was there ever a time when you thought you might not get back onto the field? *(Joe Platania) *
*(PITTA) *"There were a few weeks after my surgery when I didn't know if I would play football again, which is a tough pill to swallow. Fortunately, that wasn't the case, and things looked good enough on an MRI that I was able to get back out there. You do a lot of thinking, you do a lot of contemplating when you are in a situation where this might be my final time ever being on the field. So, 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."
Was there ever a time during the contract talks that you feared things might not work out? What do you feel influenced your decision to stay here? (Aaron Wilson)
*(PITTA) *"You never know with free agency what's going to happen. It's tough to predict how this business is going to go. But I knew I wanted to be here, and that was a priority of mine. So, in speaking with my representatives and the team, that was something that I stressed. Whatever we have to do to get it done to 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."
How excited are you going forward in this new era in the Ravens offense with Gary Kubiack as offensive coordinator and Ozzie Newsome talking about adding some new pieces? (Matt Vensel)
*(PITTA) *"I'm very excited. The last few years I've been able to watch Houston's offense have a lot of great success and be able to utilize the tight end position and get a lot of production out of it. So I'm excited to be able to kind of fill that role, to be able to be a big part of the offense going forward and excited to be in a new system and get a fresh start for our offense. Last year I think we weren't as productive as we wanted to be, certainly, so we're all looking forward to getting back to work and being the offense that we know we are capable of."
Dennis, they didn't exactly give you Joe Flacco-type of money, but will the money change you at all and the way you go forward from now on? (Jerry Coleman)
*(PITTA) "I probably won't go to McDonald's after this. *(laughter) No, I didn't get Joe Flacco money, so he will still be paying for dinners. The money doesn't mean a whole lot to me. Obviously, it's reassurance that you've been doing something right for the last few years here, and it gives me an 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."
You've got that great ability on offense to catch the football, but what about the blocking? Do you concentrate more on that with training camp coming up? (Ted Patterson)
*(PITTA) *"Yeah, absolutely. It's something that I continue to work on. It starts in the weight room, just getting stronger, and it comes down to technique. It's something that I'll continue to work on through training camp and through the season."
There has been a lot of talk and speculation over the past couple of weeks about whether guys like you and [Saints] TE Jimmy Graham should be classified as a wide receiver or a tight end, given the way you guys are moved around. What are your thoughts on what the tight end position is today, and could you weigh in on the debate that is going on elsewhere now? (Matt Vensel)
*(PITTA) *"It's an intriguing debate, and I'm a little bit biased in my opinion, obviously. I think in football it's interesting because you get labeled as something. Take Jimmy Graham for example: He gets labeled as a tight end, and for whatever reason, that somehow decreases his value. I don't understand that part of it. I think he's been a top producer in this league, certainly on his team, [and] led his team in catches, yards, touchdowns. Why all of a sudden, because he's labeled as a tight end, does that devalue his stock? That's something that I think – and more power to him – I think it's something that he should challenge because it's not right that he can catch more touchdowns and more yards than maybe someone who is classified as a wide receiver, yet because he has that tight end label, now all of a sudden his value is cut in half."
John, once Dennis Pitta came back, did you then realize you missed him, or was it as soon as he went down in training camp that you knew you were missing someone that was a star? (Dave Ginsburg)
(HARBAUGH) *"As soon as he went down in training camp. We didn't have to go through the season to understand how valuable and what a good player Dennis has been. He's been that way really since he got here. So, it was a big blow to us. Obviously, we worked hard to try to overcome it, but it's hard to replace a great player at a position in training camp like that. So, we knew." *
Can you talk about how hard it is when you have Dennis and a guy like Anquan [Boldin] who catches 60, 70 balls one year, and then the next year you've got to replace all that production, and just how hard that really is? (Keith Mills)
(HARBAUGH) *"There are challenges in football, just like there are challenges in life. We still had Torrey [Smith] – he is sitting right back there – so we still had Torrey. We had other guys who were going to step up and do the job, and guys fought to do the best they could, and that's what you do. You've just got to deal with adversity. We did the best we could, and we'll continue to do that. As much as you can, I think you've got to try to make your team somewhat injury-proof. You've got to build as much depth around your players and throughout your roster as you possibly can. You always have to do that. But those were two big blows obviously. It's just the way it was." *
What do you think of Gary Kubiak's offense from what you've seen so far? Do you expect that your role will change somewhat, and do you have heightened expectations for your production level in his offense? (Ryan Mink)
*(PITTA) *"Like I said, what I know of the offense is from watching Houston over the last few years and seeing their tight ends, Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham, put up great statistics. And it's not all about statistics, but they've been productive, and they have been a centerpiece to that offense. So, I feel like I can produce in that same way and I'm excited about the challenge and ready to get going."
Now that you have the contract, do you have any plans to get together with Joe Flacco and the other wide receivers before OTAs and the offseason program begins? (Luke Jones)
*(PITTA) *"Yeah, we've talked about it, and it's nothing set in stone right now, but I know that's something Joe wants to get done. He wants to be able to meet with us and kind of get on the same page and go over some of the new things that we're going to be doing. So, I'm sure we'll get that ironed out in the next few weeks."
When you went into the offseason, there were a lot of things you wanted to do – obviously maybe re-signing your tackles – but where does this rank in terms of a checkmark for some of the things you wanted to do in the offseason? (Dave Ginsburg)
*(HARBAUGH) *"It's right up there at the top of the list. It was a big priority for us and something that I had my fingers crossed throughout the process. And as Dennis said, I thought that Pat Moriarty did a great job and Dennis' people did a great job. I thought both sides wanted to get it done and made it happen, so it was a big priority."
What do you think was missing from the offense last season, and what do you think the focus needs to be going forward to sort of get the offense going and get it back to where you know it's capable of being? (Jeff Zrebiec)
*(PITTA) *"I think first and foremost it starts with the run game, and I think we struggled with that last year. You are a better offense when you're able to run the ball, and you don't become so one-dimensional. That will be a priority, and we certainly want to get that going because when you run the ball effectively, that helps your pass game. We continue to have to work at the pass game – the timing, the chemistry between Joe and his receivers – and that's an ongoing process. But I think first and foremost it starts with being able to run the ball effectively and get yards on first and second down."
Dennis, when you first came into the league you looked up to guys like Todd Heap, and now you are one of the leaders of the offense, especially when you get a contract like this. How do you feel about being viewed now as one of the veteran leaders of this group? (Garrett Downing)
*(PITTA) *"I still sometimes feel like my rookie year was just this past year. It doesn't feel like I've been here that long, but it's certainly a responsibility that I take seriously, and something that I'm excited to be able to do. To be able to kind of be the veteran that helps other guys, and sets the example. I had a great mentor in Todd Heap, who I'm still close with and talk to all the time. He taught me a lot of things about leadership, about how to be a professional, about how to play this game, and so, I feel like I'm a better player now having been around him."
Dennis, when you came back, you said you felt fine as far as playing and didn't even think about the hip. Is everything totally behind you? Is there any treatment or anything that you've got to do now, or is it just in the rearview? (Clifton Brown)
(PITTA)"The big thing for me right now is just continue to strengthen my hip and my leg and all that. I came back, and I'd be lying to you if I said I was 100 percent with my explosion and strength. I didn't have any pain and I felt good playing, but kind of that quickness and that explosion wasn't all the way back – which was expected. Typically, you don't regain that in four months after surgery, and so that's something that I continue to work on, and I've been training and trying to get that to 100 percent, which I'm close."
John, now that you've been able to take care of things with Dennis, where do things stand with Eugene Monroe and some of your other free agents with free agency looming? (Matt Vensel)
(HARBAUGH)"It stands in negotiations with all of those guys right now. We've got offers out to all of those guys – aggressive offers – and I know that [general manager/executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and [senior vice president of football administration] Pat [Moriarty] are dealing with their agents. They're getting a little tired of phone calls from me – I go down and see Pat like four times a day. *(laughter) *'Have you heard anything? Have you heard anything?' *(laughter) *So, they're working very hard at it, and hopefully something will happen here before Tuesday. And if things don't happen before Tuesday, then we're going to have to build a team the way we build it in other directions. But we're working really hard to get that done right now. We want to keep our guys, and we want our guys to be here just like Dennis. We want to keep those guys."
John, with the salary cap having gone up, and some of the things you guys have been able to do in terms of managing the cap, do you feel like you guys – if you want to – could be a player in free agency and have that capability to sign guys? (Aaron Wilson)
(HARBAUGH)"We've got some options and we've got a little bit of room. You want to be smart and you want to make the most of your resources and put the best team we can together. You know the sign, 'The Team, The Team, The Team'? That's really what every one of these decisions ends up being about. It ends up being about using your resources in a way that's the very best for your team, to make us as strong [a] team as we can possibly be. That's what every decision is for, and that's what we're trying to do right now. We're trying to be aggressive about it, and because we have more salary cap space than we've had in a year since , for sure, we have a chance to do some things. But the first priority is our guys right now."
John, have you had a chance in the recent weeks to speak with Ray Rice since we'd last spoken to you guys and where things stand? He's been very silent since the incident, and all we've seen is a video. (Jerry Coleman)
(HARBAUGH)"I've talked to Ray a lot, and really nothing more to add than what's been said already. The facts will determine the consequences and we'll see where it goes. I haven't seen anything different, just like you haven't seen anything different. Ray has told me his side of it, and everything that we've seen so far is very consistent with what he's said. There's nothing that he's said that hasn't turned out to be the case. I know Ray is going to spend a week at a seminar-type thing as a couples-type deal, and he's doing everything he can to do what he needs to do and make things right."
Since you got your new contract, are you going to dress like this all the time? (Torrey Smith)
(PITTA) "I might. I look good, so…" (laughter)