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Tight Ends Dennis Pitta, Maxx Williams Nearing A Return


The Ravens' tight end cavalry is on its way back following Benjamin Watson's season-ending Achilles injury.

Dennis Pitta (finger) will be back on the field before the Week 1 game against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 11, and Maxx Williams will return to practice after Thursday's preseason finale in New Orleans.

Head Coach John Harbaugh shared the good news Monday afternoon, bringing relief to what was looking like a possible depth issue at tight end.

"Dennis has missed a lot of time, so we've got to get him back out there," Harbaugh said. "I do think he could practice and play."

Pitta fractured a bone in his finger during a scuffle with rookie linebacker Kamalei Correa on Aug. 1. Pitta has rested it for about a month to let the bone heal because doctors were concerned that if he hit it again, they might need to insert a screw.

Williams' injury has not been specified, but Harbaugh said "we had to rest it for a few weeks."

With Watson out, the starting tight end job is wide open.

Pitta could take the role considering he's one of quarterback Joe Flacco's favorite targets and perhaps the most talented pass-catcher of the group, but he hasn't played in a game since Sept. 21, 2014 and has now missed a lot of training camp time.

Last year's starter, Crockett Gillmore, is still getting into peak football shape after having offseason shoulder surgery and then missing some camp time with a hamstring injury. He went* *on injured reserve with a back injury on Dec. 21 last year.

"Crockett continues to improve. He's been out of football for a long time," Harbaugh said. "He's getting into football shape in terms of his leg strength, his balance, his power, his explosiveness. That stuff is coming back quickly, but it's not there yet."

Williams started seven games last year and caught 32 passes for 268 yards and one touchdown, setting Ravens franchise rookie records for tight ends.

"I'm confident because I have faith in a lot of things and I know things are going to work out for the good," Harbaugh said. "And we're going to work hard for that."

Two players the Ravens could use at a time like this are second-year tight ends Darren Waller and Nick Boyle, who are suspended for the first four and 10 games, respectively.

The two played extensively in the third preseason game against the Detroit Lions. Waller, a converted wide receiver, turned in a 28-yard catch and run.

Training camp and the preseason have been essential for them. They don't have to worry about making the 53-man roster, but they need to make a good enough impression now to legitimize making room on the team once they're eligible to return.

So while the Ravens will be without Watson for the entire season, they will at least have more options and depth once Waller and Boyle return.

"It's very valuable because that's the only football they're going to get," Harbaugh said. "It's really important that they get lots of reps. They are guys that figure into our future."

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