In response to TE Dennis Pitta's dislocated/fractured hip, the Baltimore Ravens signed two veteran tight ends in Visanthe Shiancoe and Dallas Clark, but it became apparent yesterday that the Ravens are not ruling out a possible return by Pitta before season's end.
Head Coach John Harbaugh revealed after Tuesday’s practice that the Ravens haven’t placed Pitta on season-ending injured reserve yet because they’re unsure that he’ll definitely miss the entire season.
“We’ll put him on IR when we’re certain that he’s out for the year,” Harbaugh said. “We know it’s a serious injury, but when it came back that there was no ligament or cartilage damage, then that maybe gave us some hope. We’re going to wait and see how that bone heals over the first five weeks of the injury and see where we’re at.”
Although the return is still highly unlikely due to the severity of Pitta's injury, but the fact that Baltimore has not placed him on the season-ending injured reserve list yet is as encouraging as it could be.
Here is the kicker in the whole situation though, starting last year, the NFL began allowing teams to place one player on IR with a designation to return later in the season. This would likely be the course of action with Pitta if no other long-term injuries arise between now and Sept. 3, the earliest date a team can place one player on the reserve-injured list as “designated to return.” Once a team places this label on a player, he must miss a minimum of eight weeks of games. The player can begin practicing after six weeks however, but these stipulations will unlikely be much of a factor for Pitta’s expected length of time needed to recover (four months).
While it may be tempting for Baltimore to give Pitta the same treatment offered to linebacker Ray Lewis after he tore his right triceps last October, the designation can only be used for one player whether the individual would be able to return or not. By doing this, the Ravens could be dealing with a short-handed roster if they were to have another key player go down with a long-term injury early in the season. General manager Ozzie Newsome and Harbaugh must weigh the best-case scenarios for Pitta against the realistic expectations in determining whether he has a good chance to not just return to action but perform at a high level.
Baltimore has some time before they have to make this decision and will have the advantage to see how Pitta's rehab is going for the next three weeks before having to decide. Either way, the addition of Clark is huge for the depth at tight end, especially since Ed Dickson has yet to return to the practice field.
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