Speaking to the media Thursday for the first time since his latest hip injury, Dennis Pitta sounded like he knows he has played football for the last time.
"Listen, I've dislocated my hip three times. Take it for what it is. I'm not delusional. I know and understand what that means," Pitta said.
But he also sounded like he is still in the process of coming to terms with the realization that he likely won't catch another pass.
"I had surgery a little over a week ago," he said. "I haven't put a lot of thought into what my future holds or what's going to happen. Just trying to concentrate on my rehab at this point."
In other words, he isn't quite ready to utter the r-word – retirement.
He contemplated it several times while recovering from the two hip injuries that knocked him out of all but three games from 2013-15. His doctors and family were wary. Few players have come back from such severe setbacks.
But Pitta was motivated by wanting to prove he COULD come back from those devastating injures and play at a high level, and he realized that goal in 2016 when he played in every game for the Ravens and caught 86 passes, setting a franchise record for receptions in a season by a tight end. In fact, he caught more passes last year than any tight end in the NFL.
With that record-setting season now on his resume, Pitta conceded his career decision "will be a little bit more cut and dried this time."
He stopped just short of the r-word.
"Mentally, it will be easier just because there would have been a lot of doubt in my mind had I not come back and played last year, feeling as good as I did," he said. "It will be easier to make that decision this time around, when that times comes. I certainly don't regret coming back and playing last season. It was a tremendous year for me personally, just being able to overcome what I did and prove a lot to myself."
With his customary candor, Pitta reviewed the "nightmare" events of June 2, when he went down with a hip injury for the third time during an Organized Team Activity practice.
"There wasn't any indication that my hip would give out again. It felt great," he said. "I remember telling my wife just a few days before it happened that I felt better than I ever have."
"Things change in an instant," he said.
Indeed, Pitta went from being a starting tight end to getting cut a week later. The Ravens needed his roster spot and cleared some salary cap space.
Pitta joked about the situation as he hobbled to the microphone on crutches Thursday.
"I don't even work here. Why do I have to come out (and talk to the media)?" he said.
But there's no doubt about his relationship with the only NFL organization he's ever known. On Wednesday, he watched practice* *with Owner Steve Bisciotti. Bisciotti then stuck around the podium Thursday to watch Pitta's press conference.
"The organization has been tremendous. Welcoming me back, allowing me to come back and watch practice, hang out and be part of this, it's tremendous," Pitta said. "I can't say enough good things about all this organization has done for me and all they've given me and my family and the opportunities they've provided."
After Pitta spoke Thursday, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh stepped in front of the microphone and provided perspective.
Pitta's poignant interview, Harbaugh said, "was indicative of his whole career here and how he's carried himself. We'll see where it goes in the future, but it's been an honor and a privilege to coach him, and even moreso, to be around him every day, compete and know his family. Great guy, great Raven, very proud of what he's done here."