But if not for a Ravens war room debate during the 2010 NFL Draft that ultimately ended with the nod for Pitta in round 4, the Fresno, CA native would be donning the colors of another NFL team.
Word is that at least one Ravens coach wasn’t a big fan of the Brigham Young tight end. And to make the argument in support of the Pitta pick even more challenging was the selection of tight end Ed Dickson in the third round of that same 2010 NFL Draft.
The rest as they say is history and if not for hip injuries that sidelined him for most of 2014 and all of 2015, Pitta may have approached the statistical achievements of Heap. But unfortunately, that will never happen and it’s questionable whether Joe Flacco’s favorite target will ever dress again on a Sunday in Baltimore.
It’s a tough situation for a tough player.
And if you think for even a moment that Pitta isn’t tough, think back to the 2012 AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. On first and goal from the 10 in the third quarter Flacco hit Pitta on a short crosser for 5 yards that ended with a violent shot to Pitta’s head courtesy of Patriots LB Jerod Mayo.
The collision snapped Pitta’s head back, a blow that screamed whiplash and one that in today’s NFL would result in a field of yellow laundry and force Mayo to stroke a significant check to the league’s favorite charity.
But neither happened.
Pitta dusted himself off, got back in the huddle and on the very next play hauled in a 5 yard strike from Flacco that helped put the Ravens in the lead for good paving the way to Super Bowl 47.
Today Pitta is attempting to complete his comeback from devastating hip injuries and do what the team doctors, coaches and the front office more than likely doubted. How else do you explain drafting two tight ends and signing free agent Ben Watson since Pitta reinjured his hip in 2014?
And here’s where it gets tricky.
Tight ends are generally one of the positions that make special teams contributions. The others are running backs and linebackers. It’s unlikely that Pitta, Watson or Maxx Williams could be counted on or even asked to support special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg’s efforts. It’s equally unlikely to expect running backs Buck Allen, Justin Forsett or Kenneth Dixon to provide much in the way of special teams support.
So it’s fair to ask, “Can the roster support Pitta?”
Pitta caught a break in his quest for a roster spot when tight end Nick Boyle was slapped with a 10-game suspension following a second violation of the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. So he has a shot.
But then there’s that hip.
Pitta has the support of his family and his doctors, and genuinely seems comfortable and confident.
“I don’t have really any lingering issues, and nothing that I’m worried about. I’m encouraged by how I feel and how I’m moving, and excited to hopefully get back playing to the level that I was.”
This offseason Pitta restructured his contract in a way that suggests his intents are genuine and his return driven by his love for the game. Essentially, the team gets nearly the same cap benefits they’d receive by releasing Pitta while providing the 7-year vet the opportunity to complete his comeback attempt.
Time will tell if Pitta can get it done. So far so good and his boss appears cautiously optimistic.
“He looks like Dennis Pitta to me.”
“I think it’s hard to really evaluate and make a comparison. If you’re asking for a comparison from what he was when he was playing to what he is now, he’s removed from football for a couple of years and this is nothing. This is touch football.”
We’ll all have to wait and see what happens when Pitta absorbs that first body blow to really determine if the comeback is complete.
Not until then will his fans breathe that long-anticipated sigh of relief.
Here’s to muting the doubters Dennis – myself included.
Follow me on Twitter @RSRLombardi