Ravens “cautiously optimistic” about Pitta returning next year

January 13, 2015 | Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh remains hopeful that tight end Dennis Pitta will be able to resume his NFL career after suffering two serious hip injuries in the last two seasons.

Harbaugh had no new information about the future of the 29-year-old, who was lost for the season after dislocating and fracturing his right hip for the second time in 14 months in a game against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 21. Pitta signed a five-year, $32 million last winter that includes a $4 million guaranteed salary for the 2015 season, meaning there is virtually no chance that Baltimore would consider cutting him this offseason.

“I will say that I’m cautiously optimistic because of the injury,” Harbaugh said. “I think all of us would [say], “OK, is this going to be good?’ We want to make sure he’s going to be totally healthy, totally safe — as much as is reasonable in football — to make make sure that hip is sound and everything before our doctors would ever clear him. In the end, it will be up to the doctors and Dennis to determine that.”

Pitta has expressed a clear desire to continue his playing career after being limited to just seven games in the last two seasons. The 2010 fourth-round pick was emerging as one of the better tight ends in the NFL before suffering the first hip injury on July 27.

A vigorous rehab and the timing of the injury allowed Pitta to return for the final month of the 2013 season, but the second injury led to a slower rehabilitation process in hopes of giving the hip proper time to heal and get stronger. Many have wondered whether Pitta should play again after twice suffering an injury considered so rare in football.

Harbaugh said he spoke to Pitta on Tuesday as the tight end hopes to receive an update on his hip later in the coming days.

“He’s going to see a couple specialists this week, so I’m kind of looking forward to seeing what they say,” Harbaugh said. “But he’s working out today, so that seemed to be positive to me.”

In 50 career games in Baltimore, Pitta has made 138 receptions for 1,369 yards and 11 touchdowns as one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets.

Corners on mend

In addition to having five cornerbacks on injured reserve during the 2014 season, Harbaugh revealed Tuesday that Rashaan Melvin will undergo shoulder surgery that will keep him sidelined until organized team activities in the spring.

The former Miami Dolphins practice squad member started the final three games of the regular season and both postseason games and had played well before being torched by the Patriots for two touchdowns in Saturday’s playoff loss. However, the 6-foot-2 Melvin is regarded as an intriguing option as a depth cornerback for next season.

“If everything goes well, he should be back for OTAs and for minicamp,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think we had any other surgeries at this time after the [magnetic resonance imaging exams] came in, so that’s good news. It’s the best we’ve probably been.”

Harbaugh revealed encouraging news about the status of No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith, who suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury in late October. Smith remains in a walking boot, but it appears that he’ll be ready to go in plenty of time for spring workouts.

Smith is in line to make $6.898 million for the fifth-year option the Ravens exercised on his rookie contract.

“Jimmy will actually go into the offseason healthy,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll be running here in a couple weeks, so he’ll get a chance to get a full offseason in. Maybe four weeks might be the number off the top of my head. It’s pretty encouraging that way.”

Harbaugh, Ravens staff heading to Arizona

Harbaugh confirmed that he and his staff will coach one of the Pro Bowl teams opposed by the Dallas Cowboys staff in Arizona on Jan. 25.

The Denver Broncos staff was originally supposed to be the AFC representative before head coach John Fox parted ways with the organization on Monday, opening the door for the Ravens to receive the invitation. Harbaugh sees it as a fun event while also taking advantage of the opportunity to get to know other players, which could pay off at some point down the road.

“We get to coach a little bit more, which is nice,” said Harbaugh, who added that the Pro Bowl practices would be brief. “I mentioned a few times regarding Steve Smith and other players  — you get to know guys. I got to know Steve really well way back at his first Pro Bowl. That’s always a fun part of it in getting to know some of the players around the league.”