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OWINGS MILLS, Md. — What once appeared to be virtually impossible now appears all but official as Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday that injured tight end Dennis Pitta is likely to be placed on injured reserve with the designation to return.
The fourth-year tight end was originally deemed to be out for the season after dislocating his hip and undergoing surgery on July 27, but a magnetic resonance imaging determined that Pitta hadn’t suffered any ligament or cartilage damage, leaving Harbaugh to suggest in mid-August that he hadn’t yet been ruled out for the entire season. Teams may designate one player+ on IR to return as the Ravens did last season with Ray Lewis after the linebacker tore his right triceps.
“I would say things are progressing favorably toward that,” Harbaugh said on Friday. “He’s doing a really good job. I saw him today, and he spent some time with [owner] Steve Bisciotti today, too. He’s working really hard and he’s had no setbacks. There’s optimism there.”
The Ravens can make the decision on Pitta as early as Tuesday, but it comes with the consequence of the injured tight end needing to remain on the 53-man roster until then. As a result, the Ravens would essentially need to trim their roster to just 52 healthy players by Saturday at 6 p.m. before placing Pitta on IR and signing another player as early as Tuesday afternoon.
Given the fact that teams are only allowed to use the designation on one player, the Ravens must weigh Pitta’s realistic prognosis and chances to not only return but make an impact this season against the risk of another key player suffering a long-term injury early in the season that would create a potential roster crunch. However, the Baltimore coach sees too much of a potential reward in using the option with his starting tight end.
“You’ve got to weigh that, but you can’t predict and deal in hypotheticals,” Harbaugh said. “Dennis is a great player in our opinion, and this is an opportunity that seems like it might make sense for him.”
Starting last season, the NFL began allowing teams to place one player on IR with a designation to return later in the season. With this label, a player must miss a minimum of eight weeks of games but can begin practicing after six weeks, but those stipulations are unlikely to be much of a factor for Pitta’s expected length of time needed to recover.
The estimated recovery time for a dislocated hip is at least three to four months in most cases.