OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Since both of their tight ends went down with injuries early in the preseason, the Ravens have maintained all along that Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson would be ready for the start of the regular season.
And while both have been practicing on a limited basis since last week, the pair took a more cautious approach in assessing their chances for taking the field against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. Both Dickson and Pitta said they expect to be game-time decisions following practice on Wednesday.
Pitta has been sidelined since undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his right hand early in camp while Dickson sprained his right shoulder in the Ravens’ preseason opener in Atlanta. Their absence from the field has provided an extra challenge to quarterback Joe Flacco and an offense with an increased emphasis on the no-huddle attack this season.
“A lot more mental preparation, obviously, but it’s nice to be back on the field now,” Pitta said. “I’ve been able to be out there for the last week or so running around and catching the football. It’s nice to be back running plays and developing that chemistry again with Joe and with the offense. Hopefully, it will feel good come game day.”
Coach John Harbaugh insists that players not discuss information related to injuries, so it’s difficult to determine just how serious the tight ends are about being in danger of not playing. The first official injury report of the week will not be released until Thursday evening, but Dickson and Pitta will have been practicing for a full two weeks, which makes it difficult to believe they might not play.
Both players have not partaken in any contact during practices, so it will be interesting to see what their level of participation is this week in practice. Veteran Billy Bajema is the third tight end on the roster.
“Practice until we get to that game,” Dickson said. “Like I said, if it was a personal decision, I don’t care how I’d feel — I’d be out there. I’m here to help the team win. I want to be out there for my team, but I don’t want to hurt the team.”
As you’d expect, Pitta is trying to gain more confidence in catching the football after being sidelined for a month and having his hand in a cast. The third-year tight end felt thankful that he injured the hand so early in camp to allow plenty of time for recovery.
“We just prepare ourselves each day, and we hope to play,” Pitta said. “Obviously, we don’t know at this point and we’ll see how it feels in the next few days, but we’re doing everything we can to prepare ourselves to play because we want to be out there and help our team.”
While both tight ends expressed the need to regain their timing with Flacco, neither anticipated that process taking very long after the success the pair enjoyed last season. Dickson and Pitta combined for 94 catches, 933 yards, and eight touchdown catches last year.
“Joe and I have a good relationship,” Pitta said. “We trust one other on the field, so it’s just about regaining that timing and confidence and all that. We’re able to do that a little bit this week.”
Yanda, Upshaw ready to go Monday
As we learned late last season when rib and leg injuries landed him in the hospital before he still wound up playing in the regular-season finale, it takes quite a bit to keep Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda off the field.
Therefore, it was no secret that the tweaked knee Yanda had suffered after being accidentally undercut by a teammate in practice two weeks ago was a little more serious than the Ravens were leading on. The sixth-year lineman revealed Wednesday he suffered an MCL sprain but declared himself ready to play in the season opener.
“I feel great, I’m 100 percent — the knee’s good,” Yanda said. “[The ligament] was loose for a while, but it’s definitely tightening back up. I just wear the brace and the tape just for precaution.”
Yanda missed the final two preseason games as veteran Bobbie Williams shifted over to right guard and rookie Kelechi Osemele played left guard against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens rested their starting offensive line in the fourth preseason game.
After an uncertain summer in which the Ravens rotated tackles and left guards in determining what their starting lineup would look like against Cincinnati — a question that still remains unanswered to some degree — Yanda remains the dependable foundation of the unit. The timing of the injury allowed Yanda to rest his body when he otherwise would have pushed through the ailment had it occurred in the regular season.
“It was hurt. It was loose, so I wasn’t going to fight through it during the preseason and make it worse,” said Yanda, who believed he could have played had it been the regular season. “We were just going to let it heal all the way, and that’s what it’s done.”
Questions remain regarding the stability of Williams’ surgically-repaired right ankle and the fact that three of the five projected starters are on the wrong side of thirty, but the unit appears to be in much better shape with Yanda’s knee no longer being a concern.
“You always want to start the season healthy,” Yanda said. “It’s a long year and I’m going to do that, so that’s great. I’ll be ready to roll [and] flying around.”
Rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw also said he will be ready to play after tweaking the same shoulder he sprained earlier in the summer in the Ravens’ preseason finale last Thursday.
Ihedigbo ready to step in wherever needed