Dennis Pitta’s worst football nightmare has come true. He has injured his hip again.
“In unfortunate news, Dennis Pitta re-injured his hip at today’s OTA session, and is undergoing tests to determine the severity," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. "This is incredibly disappointing, obviously for Dennis, and for the Ravens."
Just like last time, it happened without contact. Pitta stretched to make a catch, just like he’s done a million times. He fell to the turf and tried to get up, but couldn’t put weight on his leg.
It’s devastating news for the Ravens and Pitta, as it’s his third major hip injury in four years – just when it looked like it was finally behind him and his career was back on track.
After his second hip dislocation/fracture Pitta sat out nearly two years before a miraculous return last season.
Not only did he play in all 16 games, but he led all NFL tight ends in receptions (86) and posted a career-high 729 receiving yards and two touchdowns. It was the most catches by a Ravens tight end in franchise history, and Pitta was named a second alternate to the Pro Bowl.
"Dennis is one of the great Ravens, and he has done everything he can to make our team better," Newsome said.
It was a tremendous comeback story, and one that Pitta seemed finally beyond this offseason. The first question he got last week when meeting with reporters was if things felt different this year compared to last year.
“I am not getting as many questions about my hip,” Pitta said last week. “I feel good. I got to have a full offseason of just normal preparation. It feels good – feeling healthy.”
But, as Pitta has seen over his career, things can change quickly.
Pitta became a star in 2012 when he helped quarterback Joe Flacco during his epic playoff run and caught a touchdown pass in the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII victory.
Tragedy struck the following offseason, as Pitta fractured and dislocated his hip for the first time on July 27, 2013, the first day of contact in training camp. He rushed back to the field to play in the final four games that season.
Then it happened again on Sept. 21, 2014, in a Week 3 game in Cleveland. Pitta caught a pass, turned up-field, stumbled and crumbled to the turf without being touched.
After the second injury, Pitta had an entirely different surgery with long-term stability as the focus. It was performed by Dr. Roger Wilber in Cleveland, and both doctor and patient came away confident.
Was it stable enough for an NFL player? That was the big question, and one that couldn’t be definitively answered.
After debating a comeback with his family, friends and teammates, Pitta ultimately made the decision to return to the game. He always knew there was a chance it could happen again.
“You could talk all day about what the risks are,” he said about a year ago. “There will always be people that say I’m crazy and don’t understand why I would put myself at risk. But to those people you say, ‘We all put ourselves at risk playing football.’ Whether it’s a head injury or a hip injury or whatever it may be, we are at risk. What those risks are, I don’t know and we don’t know.”
Part of Pitta’s decision was based on the worst-case scenario of a third hip injury.
“At the end of the day, we’re not talking about a life-or-death scenario,” Pitta said then. “Obviously, you don’t want to suffer another injury and you don’t want to have a hip replacement surgery earlier than you should. But we understand that, as athletes, those are the long-term consequences of playing football.”
Pitta will likely have surgery very soon and begin the healing and rehab process all over again. He’ll first just try to return normalcy to his life and young family.
It’s been a brutal week in Baltimore. On Wednesday, wide receiver Michael Campanaro sprained his toe, continuing a string of personal health problems. On Thursday, projected starting nickel cornerback Tavon Young tore his ACL. Now Baltimore’s top tight end is out.
The Ravens will turn to Benjamin Watson, who is in the midst of his own comeback story at age 36 and coming off a season-ending Achilles injury from last year. Watson isn’t yet practicing.
Baltimore also has Crockett Gillmore, Nick Boyle, Darren Waller and Maxx Williams. Williams is about eight months removed from a complicated knee surgery that Head Coach John Harbaugh said has never before been performed on a football player. He’s expected to return in training camp.