Pitta has suffered from two dislocations to the same hip. The first dislocation occurred during a training camp practice on July 27, 2013. Although most assumed that this was a season-ending injury, Pitta returned for the final four games of the 2013 regular season. Proving that he could return to form, the Ravens awarded him a five year contract worth $32 million before the 2014 season.
Then things took a turn for the worse. During the Ravens week 3 game against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 21, 2014, Pitta caught a pass out of the backfield and went down to the ground untouched. The tight end left the game on a stretcher with his hands over his head, and it was later announced that Pitta had suffered a second hip dislocation.
Despite suffering the same devastating injury twice, Pitta kept fighting. He rehabbed again, this time longer. With every intention of playing in 2015, Pitta participated in non-contact drills earlier this year during Ravens training camp. Not expecting Pitta to be ready for the regular season, the Ravens placed him on the physically unable to perform list on Sept. 1. This would mean that he could return to practice after week 6.
On Oct. 21, Pitta did return to practice. He would have three weeks to decide on if he would play the rest of the 2015 season. Despite the fact that doctors and his wife did not want him to play let alone practice, Pitta wanted to find out firsthand if his hip would be able to hold up. And now he knows his answer. It is not.
Per a report from the Baltimore Ravens, Pitta stated; “Obviously, we wanted to see no issues at all, there were things both on and off the field that weren’t feeling right, and were certainly feeling different from the first time around. I have a little experience with this injury, so I know how it should have felt and needed to feel.”
However, when asked on if he would retire or not, Pitta said; “Certainly there’s no plans to retire at this time. I’m going to continue to rehab and it’s something we’ll continue to evaluate. At the end of the year, we’ll see where it’s at.”
It has certainly been hard to watch injuries rattle Pitta’s career, because he is such a stand-up, class-act guy. The 30 year old tight end was also Joe Flacco’s security blanket, favorite target, and best friend off the field. The 2010 fourth round pick out of Brigham Young had his best season in the 2012 Superbowl season, where he had 61 receptions for 669 yards and 7 touchdowns. In the 2012 playoffs, he hauled in 14 catches for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns, including one in the Superbowl.
The question on why Pitta continues to push himself to a return even with all these injuries is hard to understand for all of us outsiders. After all, with $16 million in guaranteed money and a Superbowl ring, what else does Pitta want to prove? The answer may be nothing, but considering Pitta has only played in three games since signing that new contract, he feels a sense of obligation to give the Ravens the best return on investment possible. Plus, what NFL player wants the last play of their career to end with a cart ride?
We will not know if Pitta is going to retire or not until the 2015 season comes to a close. We do know that in Pitta’s absence, Ravens tight ends Crockett Gilmore, Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle will continue to showcase what they can do with Pitta acting as their mentor and coach.
Pitta made perhaps the most difficult decision of his life, but deciding not to play this season was the right call. If the hip is still not feeling right after more than a year of rehab, then the doctors were probably right in saying that playing an NFL game would not be a good idea.
No one will look down on Dennis Pitta if he cannot make it back onto the field. The hip injuries he suffered are rare and considering the same injury occurred twice, it may be time to think about life down the road. Pitta will likely need a hip replacement later in life, and he needs to make sure he can live comfortably. Attempting a comeback and risking another injury is not worth it.
If this is the end of the line for Pitta, let’s remember him not by the injuries he suffered, but the good things he did for the Ravens, most notably in 2012; a season that ended with him celebrating with his best friend on a field full of purple confetti.