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Monday, July 28, 2014
What a healthy Pitta means for Ravens

By Jamison Hensley

The one-year anniversary of tight end Dennis Pitta dislocating his hip passed over the weekend, and it went unnoticed by the Baltimore Ravens.

"I didn’t even think about that. Someone had to remind me of that, which I really didn’t need that reminder," coach John Harbaugh said. "That was unnecessary because let’s just look forward."

To understand the type of impact Pitta will have this season, you have to look at how the Ravens fared without him last season. The best way to measure the loss of Pitta is this: The Ravens ranked 31st in red zone scoring percentage and 20th on third-down conversion percentage with Pitta out for most of 2013.

A healthy Pitta should lead to more scoring and more extended drives. While you also can't dismiss the loss of wide receiver Anquan Boldin (who was traded before last season) and the effect of that on the offense, Pitta continually came up big for Joe Flacco and the Ravens inside the 20-yard line and on third downs.

Over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, Pitta scored 10 touchdowns in the red zone. No other Ravens player had more than seven during that span.

During those two same seasons, Pitta caught 36 passes on third downs, which tied Ray Rice for the team lead. Only three tight ends -- Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez -- had more third-down receptions than Pitta over that span.

Pitta did play in 2013, returning for the final four games. But he didn't have the same explosion or impact because he wasn't fully recovered.

That's not the case for 2014.

"I’m out here not thinking about it," Pitta said. "It’s not giving me an issue at all; I feel 100 percent. I’m encouraged with where I’m at.”

While Pitta isn't thinking about the injury on the field, he is still "highly motivated" by it heading into this season.

"Not playing very much at all last season, you just have to kind of watch and wish you were out there, watch other people do well and wish you could be out there showcasing your abilities," he said. "So, I’m excited to have that chance this year and certainly motivated to do that.”