Pain of latest Pitta injury goes beyond Ravens, football

June 02, 2017 | Luke Jones

There will be plenty of time to discuss what tight end Dennis Pitta’s latest re-injury of his right hip will mean for the Ravens and an offense that’s already sustained much loss with few additions this offseason.

We know the NFL is a business and injuries occur all the time. In fact, we’re reminded so frequently of that reality that we forget these are human beings with families and everyday problems that don’t vanish simply because they are able to play football at an all-world level and are compensated so well for it.

Dennis Pitta is a good man with a wonderful family. It’s sad to see them go through such an agonizing process again.

Yes, he knew the risk he was taking playing again after he injured his hip for the second time almost three years ago in Cleveland and so many said he should have retired then. He acknowledged over the last couple years that his wife and mother weren’t crazy about his latest comeback, but Pitta wanted to play again and cited a feeling of having let the Ravens down by appearing in only three games over the first two seasons of a five-year contract signed in 2014 that guaranteed him $16 million. That’s one reason why he accepted pay cuts in each of the last two seasons — yes, the Ravens had plenty of leverage, too — and signed injury waivers that would protect the organization from a financial standpoint.

He wasn’t doing all of this for free, of course, but few would have faulted Pitta for retiring after the first catastrophic hip injury occurred on July 27, 2013. And virtually no one expected him to play again when he was carted off the field in Cleveland on Sept. 21, 2014, but he eventually defied the odds after missing nearly two full seasons of action.

Before focusing on his replacements and salary-cap ramifications, we should admire a man who didn’t want his final play in the NFL to be one in which he collapsed to the ground and had to be carted off the field. He was able to achieve that goal last season after an incredible amount of work most of us never saw.

It had been such a feel-good comeback story in 2016 as Pitta was the only Ravens tight end to play in all 16 games, leading all NFL players at his position with 86 receptions and catching his first touchdowns in three years. Pitta said only last week how refreshing it was to not be answering questions about his hip anymore and how he appreciated just being able to go through a normal offseason for the first time in a few years.

And now this.

Of course, life will go on for the Ravens as they’ll enter their final week of organized team activities next week and we’ll focus on the deep inventory of tight ends remaining on the 2017 roster. But the 31-year-old has the rest of his life ahead of him and now faces another long recovery and rehabilitation. Pitta has said in the past that he would likely need a hip replacement after his career ended, so we don’t know for sure what this latest injury means in that context.

In our efforts to immediately remind ourselves that it’s a business before talking about salary-cap ramifications and the next man up, let’s recognize the man’s principles and efforts to do everything he could to contribute to the Ravens over the last several years despite his body not cooperating.

Pitta still deserves to have the official final say about his future, but we can only wish him and his family the best with whatever comes next and he’ll certainly be missed in the Baltimore locker room.

We should only hope to see a man in his early 30s be able to run around with his kids and play golf and be healthy in his everyday life moving forward. Pitta has provided more than enough memories on the football field for the Ravens and their fans.

The show will go on, but it’s sad to see such an uplifting comeback take another heartbreaking twist.