OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta suffered a hand injury during Monday’s training camp practice that may sideline him for the entire preseason.
Leaving the field halfway through the afternoon practice, Pitta did not return to the field. The early prognosis suggests the third-year tight end will be ready for the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10.
“It looks like he broke his hand,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It looks like he’ll have to get it repaired in some form or fashion. He should be back for the first regular season game, but that’s very tentative. I’m a little ahead of myself there.”
Pitta was one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 season as he caught 40 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns. The Brigham Young product made only one reception in his rookie season.
The 6-foor-4, 245-pounder was used as a tight end, H-back, and slot receiver last season as the Ravens struggled to find production at the wide receiver position aside from Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Fellow tight end Ed Dickson was the starter last season and possesses more speed and strength, but Pitta showed the more consistent hands of the two and had significantly narrowed the gap for playing time by season’s end.
Pitta also became a favorite target of quarterback Joe Flacco, and the two are close friends off the field.
“He’s definitely an important part of our offense,” said Boldin upon learning the news of Pitta’s hand injury. “I think you saw last year him play a big role, especially when it came down the stretch. Dennis is a guy that can play inside, a guy that we can line up outside and get different mismatches. He’s a nightmare for defenses across the board. It’s definitely a good thing when he’s on the field.”
Harbaugh backtracked from his initial comments regarding Pitta’s prognosis for a return, and the coach hopes to hear better news after the tight end undergoes more tests.
For an offense looking to improve its production from a season ago, an extended absence for Pitta would be a major blow to the passing game.
“I shouldn’t really say because I really don’t know, but it’s not going to be that long,” Harbaugh said. “Tomorrow, we could find out it’s different because of the MRI. I probably shouldn’t have said anything.”
With Pitta now sidelined, Davon Drew now becomes the backup tight end. The 2009 fifth-round pick caught a touchdown pass from Flacco in a red zone drill on Monday.