Coach optimistic on Dennis Pitta

Updated: December 4, 2013, 5:52 PM ET
By Jamison Hensley | ESPN.com

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- For the weeks leading up to the past two games, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh has left open the possibility of Dennis Pitta playing. But on Wednesday, Harbaugh was more optimistic about Pitta suiting up than at any other point since the tight end began practicing again.

"I'm pretty hopeful that he can play on Sunday," Harbaugh said.

The Ravens are starting to find a rhythm in the passing game with Jacoby Jones becoming more involved. If the Ravens can add Pitta, they'll have an intermediate threat to complement big-play receivers Jones and Torrey Smith.

[+] EnlargeDennis Pitta
AP Photo/Perry KnottsDennis Pitta caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLVII, and the Ravens had planned to rely on the tight end even more in 2013 before he injured his hip in July.

Pitta, who dislocated his hip on July 27, remains on the injured reserve-designated for return list. He was in New York on Tuesday to have his hip evaluated and was back on the practice field Wednesday.

"I think it's going to be a matter of how ready is he to play and how healthy he is to play," Harbaugh said. "Something like that, all of the doctors are going to be involved. The health of the player comes first. That's the No. 1 thing -- his ability to withstand the rigors of a game. I think we're on track that way. We'll just have to see how it plays out."

Pitta returned to practice last month, and the Ravens have until Dec. 11 to decide whether to activate him or end his season. It seems like a matter of time until Pitta is put on the 53-man roster.

He ran individual routes in practices leading up to the New York Jets game, but he really didn't do too much last week because the Ravens were basically conducting walkthroughs in preparation for a Thursday night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pitta is expected to increase his work this week in practice.

"I'm sure he probably still feels a little weak, and there are probably some things he's going to feel himself through," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He hasn't ran a full-speed route against defenders in a long time. You have to allow some adjustment time for that."

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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