OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Dennis Pitta was uncharacteristically miserable, for good reason.
The Baltimore Ravens tight end had just undergone surgery to repair his dislocated and fractured right hip after he fell awkwardly in the end zone on the second day of training camp. As he lay in the hospital bed, Pitta knew his football career could very well be over.
"The surgery, for what had happened, went successfully," he said this week. "But still there were a lot of unknown factors."
Pitta would have to wait two agonizing weeks for an MRI that would determine the extent of the injury. If there was vascular or cartilage damage, the 28-year-old would be done in the NFL after only three seasons.
"He's usually a happy guy, but when I walked into the room I could feel his pain. He was sad and upset," Pitta's wife, Mataya, recalled. "I'd never really seen him like that."
Pitta's eyes lit up when he saw his wife and their infant son, Decker, who was born in May. But his delight was short-lived. The couple discussed their options, which included the possibility of Pitta beginning life after football by going back to school to complete his education.
"When you don't know if you're going to play football again, you start thinking about a lot of things and put things in perspective, kind of try to figure out what you would do with the rest of your life," Pitta said. "Those are tough questions to ask when you just want to play football."
That was late July. Flash forward to last Sunday, when Pitta caught six passes for 48 yards and a touchdown to help Baltimore beat Minnesota 29-26.
"It was special for me to be able to not only take the field, but to be able to contribute like that," he said. "It's been a lot of hard work going into that, a lot of patience at the same time."
When he arrived at training camp, Pitta was coming off a sensational season in which he caught 61 passes and scored seven touchdowns. He was even better in the playoffs, adding 14 catches and three scores to fuel Baltimore's run to a Super Bowl title.
Pitta was supposed to be even more of a target this season. The Ravens traded receiver Anquan Boldin because they knew Pitta would be there to take throws from Joe Flacco in the middle of the field and on third-and-long.
"I felt like I prepared myself well going into the season and was really poised to play my best football," Pitta said.
Then came that fateful July 27 collision in the end zone with teammate James Ihedigbo.