AFC North: Brynden Trawick

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta has a "reasonable chance" of playing Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, coach John Harbaugh said after Friday's practice.

Pitta
"It's just going to be how he gets through the week and how the doctors still have to look at it and make sure he's going to be sound," Harbaugh said. "If they feel good about it, then he should be OK."

It's likely a good sign Pitta had his surgically repaired hip evaluated in New York on Tuesday and increased his workload in practice the rest of the week.

Pitta, who is on the Injured Reserve-Designated for Return list, would need to be activated by Saturday at 4 p.m. ET in order to play against the Vikings. The Ravens could open up a roster spot by placing injured safety Brynden Trawick on injured reserve.

“Ultimately, it’s up to me and how I feel," Pitta said. "It’s a rare injury in sports so the doctor’s are relying on me to see how I feel and how my body responds and all that. We’ll see how it goes [Saturday], and we’ll have to make some decisions in the next couple of days.”

Pitta, the second-leading receiver on last season's Super Bowl champion team, has been practicing since Nov. 20. He initially ran individual routes but he participated in team drills this week.

“I’ve upped my workload a little bit this week just to kind of test it and see where it’s at and all that," Pitta said. "Like I said, it’s felt good. I feel like I’m able to do what I need to do. We’ll keep seeing how it feels through the weekend.”

What Pitta can't simulate is contact. He hasn't taken a hit since dislocating his hip on July 27.

"You always want to see how you’re going to respond after getting hit like that," Pitta said. "It’s not something that you could simulate in rehab or even in practice. It will be nice to kind of take that first hit and just see how it feels.”

Harbaugh said he hadn't considered whether bad weather would affect Pitta's status. A wintry mix of snow and sleet is expected in Baltimore on Sunday.

"That's probably something that we'll have to decide on Sunday," Harbaugh said. "Our footing on our field is pretty good. If we get ice or something like that, we'll have to see."

The Baltimore Ravens could be without wide receiver-returner Jacoby Jones for four to six weeks, according to multiple reports.

Jones reportedly has sprained his medial collateral ligament in his right knee after undergoing an MRI on Friday. He was injured when undrafted rookie Brynden Trawick, who was playing in his first NFL game, ran into the Pro Bowl returner on a punt return in Baltimore's season-opening 49-27 loss to the Denver Broncos Thursday night.

The Ravens can't put Jones on the injured reserve-designated for return list because they used that on tight end Dennis Pitta. And, given the possibility of Jones returning in a month, Baltimore wouldn't have used that designation, which sidelines a player for at least eight weeks, on Jones.

Here's the impact of not having a triple threat like Jones:

Wide receiver: Minimal. Jones was the No. 2 receiver for the Ravens, but it's debatable whether he's the second-best receiver on the team. You can make the argument that undrafted rookie Marlon Brown is a better pass-catcher right now than Jones. In the season opener, Jones had three catches for 24 yards in a little over one quarter of work, while Brown had four receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown. Brown's size and ability to make catches over the middle is an asset to this offense. So, in the big picture, Baltimore is going to miss Anquan Boldin (traded in the offseason) more than Jones.

Punt returns: Moderate. It looks like the Ravens are going to have cornerback Lardarius Webb fill in for Jones here. Jones scored a critical touchdown off a punt at Pittsburgh last season, but he ranked 15th in the NFL in punt returns with a 9.2-yard average. Baltimore may not lose much with Webb, who is an experienced punt returner. In 2011, Webb had a slightly better average (10.0) than Jones and had a 68-yard touchdown. The biggest problems deal with injury. The Ravens ideally wouldn't want to put too much on Webb, who is 11 months removed from anterior cruciate ligament surgery, and wouldn't want to expose their best cover corner to getting hurt on special teams.

Kickoff returns: Big. This is the role where Jones excels the most. Jones earned his first Pro Bowl nod primarily for leading the NFL with a franchise-record 30.7-yard kickoff return average. He is the only player in NFL history to record two kickoff return touchdowns of at least 105 yards, and he did so in a four-week span last season. Jones also had a Super Bowl-record 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half. The Ravens went with Bernard Pierce on kickoffs after losing Jones on Thursday night, although the injured Deonte Thompson (foot) is listed as the No. 2 kickoff returner on the depth chart. Whoever takes over, the Ravens won't have the same explosiveness as they did with Jones.


DENVER -- My thoughts on the Baltimore Ravens' 49-27 loss to the Denver Broncos:

What it means: The Ravens' title defense -- as well as life without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed -- opened with a dud. This is the first season-opening loss for coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco in their six years together, and it wasn't even close. An interception by Flacco in his own territory, a blocked punt and a drop near the goal line all led to the worst loss by a defending Super Bowl champion in a season opener, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The 49 points are the most allowed by the Ravens in their history.

Stock watch: Falling -- Ravens secondary. The Ravens gave up an NFL-record-tying seven touchdown passes, and everyone took turns getting roughed up. Safety Michael Huff couldn't keep up with tight end Julius Thomas (two touchdowns), cornerback Corey Graham struggled covering Wes Welker (two touchdowns) and cornerback Jimmy Smith watched a good game turn bad when he was beaten by Andre Caldwell (one touchdown). The Ravens allowed Peyton Manning to throw three touchdowns in a disastrous third quarter, which turned Baltimore's 17-14 lead into a 35-17 deficit.

Why not challenge?: With the Ravens ahead 17-14 early in the third quarter, Welker trapped a ball that was ruled a completion, which converted a third down. If Harbaugh had challenged, the drive would've ended. Instead, Manning rushed to the line to snap the ball, and three plays later, Caldwell scored a 28-yard touchdown. The Broncos took a lead they would never relinquish.

Too many drops: The loss of tight end Dennis Pitta (hip injury) was felt right away. Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson dropped at least five passes. The devastating one was Clark failing to hold onto a third-down pass inside the 5-yard line. The Ravens had to settle for a field goal and a 17-14 lead at halftime.

Self-inflicted: Two Ravens starters were hurt in the second quarter by their own teammates. On a punt return, Jacoby Jones was leveled by rookie Brynden Trawick and suffered a sprained knee. Then, on Ray Rice's one-yard touchdown run, right tackle Michael Oher sprained his ankle when guard Marshal Yanda rolled into him. Two rookies, wide receiver Marlon Brown and offensive tackle Rick Wagner, replaced the veterans in the starting lineup.

What's next: The Ravens (0-1) get nine days before playing the Cleveland Browns at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 15. Baltimore has a 10-game winning streak over Cleveland.

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