Dennis Pitta is returning to practice.
The fourth-year tight end will practice Wednesday for the first time this season since suffering a fractured and dislocated hip early in training camp.
"It feels awesome to be able to get back and be in meetings with the guys and be able to hit the field a little bit," Pitta said after Wednesday's walkthrough. "I feel great. I'm going to take it slow though and make sure I can integrate myself back in, and I'm feeling good."
Pitta is currently on Injured Reserve – Designated to Return, and he is able to return to practice for three weeks before the Ravens have to decide whether to place him on the 53-man active roster. Pitta's injury was initially considered season ending, when tests revealed he did not suffer any ligament or structural damage, the team decided to give him an option to return this season.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said that the team realized soon in his recovery that Pitta may be able to return again this year and he is on track with the time frame the doctor's provided for a return.
"I had no setbacks in my rehab and treatment and everything has been going well. We've been working hard and I'm excited to get a little taste of football again," Pitta said. "I stayed true to the rehab and did everything that I've been asked to do."
In terms of actually returning to game action, Harbaugh and Pitta were both non-committal on when that could be.
"It's impossible to say really," Harbaugh said. "Without getting ahead of ourselves, as soon as possible. Safety is No. 1, and his ability to perform out there are the two factors."
Pitta has been able to run for the last several weeks of his recovery, and the next step is to see how he adjusts to the pounding on the football field.
"Obviously I haven't had any contact or any live contact of any kind," Pitta said. "Things like that you just can't simulate outside of the football field. I'll do what I can and take it and slow and make sure we're smart about it and that I'm ready to go when that time comes."
Getting Pitta back on the field would provide a boost for the offense, which has struggled without him in the lineup. Last season Pitta had 61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns, and was one of quarterback Joe Flacco's favorite targets.
Veteran tight end Dallas Clark currently leads the Ravens' tight ends in the passing game, and he has 27 catches for 311 yards and three touchdowns.
To return to the field, Pitta said that he wants to feel like his old self.
"I have to be able to play at an elite level, and that's what it takes to play in this league," Pitta said. "We'll see how the next few weeks go and see how I progress, and how I'm doing on the field. I'm not sure as of right now that timetable."
Pitta is currently in the final year of his contract, as he was signed to a one-year restricted free agent tender in May. He is set to hit the open market this offseason, but said that the upcoming contract is not part of his decision to get back on the field.
"That's not something I've thought about," Pitta said. "Obviously that's part of this business but I'm focused on helping our team win and doing what I can to get back and contribute."