Dennis Pitta isn't a very outwardly emotional guy, much like his buddy Joe Flacco.
So when Pitta was asked how he* *expects to feel before his first NFL game since Sept. 21, 2014, the Ravens tight end started talking about how there's always some anxiousness and excitement before a regular-season opener.
But this isn't any normal Week 1 game for Pitta, and he knows it.
After missing basically two seasons because of a second dislocated and fractured hip injury, undergoing another surgery and long recovery, Pitta is back.
"You almost feel like you're back to your rookie year," Pitta said. "It's a little different because I kind of know what to expect, but it's been a while. I'm sure once I get out there it'll all be familiar again like it has been on the field.
"I'm just excited to be out there; it's been a long time coming for me. Hopefully I'll be able to control my emotions and play within myself."
Unfortunately, Pitta wasn't able to suit up in any of the Ravens' preseason games, where he could have re-acclimated himself to playing in a game and felt an opponent's hit. A broken finger suffered when he punched rookie Kamalei Correa in a training camp practice sent Pitta to the sideline once again.
Pitta said he doesn't feel rusty at all and joked that he's probably fresher than most of his teammates in the locker room after not going through the rigors of training camp. He says he's in shape because he was still able to run routes while the hand recovered.
Now it's a matter of getting through his first game without injury. In Pitta's case, there are still people out there holding their breath whenever he touches the ball.
"I've had a lot of texts from [friends and family] over the last two years," Pitta said. "They'll probably be pretty quiet until after the game for this one."
Pitta said he doesn't plan to do anything different in his pre-game routine to ease his nerves. An early pass coming his way would help, he joked.
After the season-ending Achilles injury to Benjamin Watson, Pitta is listed at the top of the tight end depth chart, followed by Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams.
Pitta said he topped the list because he's a veteran and everybody will get enough reps. But the fact that Pitta is the starter and leader is remarkable considering how far he's come. It wasn't too long ago when it looked like he may never play football again.
"I think it just recognizes his talents and the amount of hard work he put into this thing," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "I don't think anything's changed since he last played. He just needed to get healthy. He was a game changer then, and I don't see why he wouldn't be now."
It's no secret that Pitta used to be one of Flacco's favorite targets. The two are very good friends on and off the field.
During the 2012 season, Pitta caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns as a six-game starter. Pitta was also instrumental in the playoff run and Super Bowl XLVII win, catching three touchdowns in four games.
"I know what he's capable of when he's playing at a high level," Flacco said. "I trust that – from what I've seen out here – he is playing how he has played. He hasn't played in a game in a very long time. It's a little bit different, but I expect him to adjust to it relatively quickly and get going."