- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time since having surgery on his hip in late July, but neither he nor the team will reveal when the team's leading returning pass catcher will play his first game.
Pitta has been on the injured reserve designated to return list since dislocating his hip on July 27, the Ravens' first contact practice of training camp. He had 61 catches for 669 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
Asked when the Ravens expect Pitta to play, coach John Harbaugh said before practice, "It's impossible to say. Without getting ahead of ourselves here, as soon as possible. But safety is No. 1 and his ability to perform out there are two factors."
The Ravens have a three-week window to decide whether to activate Pitta to the 53-man roster or sit him for the rest of the season. The defending Super Bowl champions are 4-6 and face a critical three-game homestand starting with the New York Jets on Sunday.
Pitta declined to say whether he could play Sunday.
"I feel great," Pitta said in his first comments with reporters since the injury. "I'm going to take it slow, though, to make sure I can integrate myself back in."
Pitta indicated there have been no setbacks in his recovery, although he pointed out that he hasn't had any live contact since the injury. According to Harbaugh, Pitta was able to walk soon after the surgery and has been lifting weights since reporting back to the team. He started running again in recent weeks.
But Pitta said there is a difference between practicing and being able to play.
"I got to be able to play at an elite level and that's what it takes to play in this league," he said. "We'll see how the next few weeks go and see how I progress and how I'm doing on the field. I'm not sure as of right now that timetable."
Pitta can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and he said his return has nothing to do with his contract status.
"It's not something I've thought about," he said. "Obviously, it's part of this business. I'm focusing on helping this team win."
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