Athlete Worth Watching: Baltimore Ravens' Tight End, Dennis Pitta
Jan 03, 2017 01:23PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Few professional athletes have ever had to come back from the type of severe injuries that sidelined Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta for the better part of three seasons.
Pitta dislocated and fractured his right hip not once, but twice.
The first time was in July of 2013 in training camp. It happened again during a game in Cleveland in September of 2014.
Pitta gave some thought to retirement, playing in only seven games from 2013 to 2015. After a lengthy rehab, the 31-year-old Pitta is looking like his old self.
After all, before the injuries, Pitta was well on his way to becoming an elite NFL tight end after grabbing 61 passes for 666 yards in 2012—his third year in the league.
The 6-foot-4, 238-pound Pitta, a Fresno, California native, and a fourth-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft out of Brigham Young University, was once one of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite targets.
We recently sat down with Pitta, a former Eagle Scout who is married with three young children, for a chat about coming back from his injuries, his relationship with Flacco, the other Dennis Pitta in Baltimore, and his charity work.
How would you describe your relationship with Joe Flacco?
“We are good friends. It’s kind of been that way since I first got here. I think personality-wise, we just connected when we met. It’s been a long time before this season that we have been able to play together. It’s a lot of fun. It’s always nice to know what your quarterback is thinking and what he wants and expects out of you. I think we have a good feel for that.”
Did you worry that you wouldn’t play again after you fractured your hip a second time?
“Absolutely. There was a lot of doubt about whether or not I was going to be able to play. Most doctors told me it wouldn’t be smart. I probably wouldn’t be able to pull it off. I should just plan to move on from football and get healthy for the rest of my life. I just worked hard, took it day-by-day and didn’t know how I would feel or where I would be at the end of my rehab. But I got to a point where everything felt good and I was able to test it and here we are.”
NFL fans hear a lot about knee, foot, and shoulder injuries, but not hip injuries. What went into the rehab?
“It’s one of those things that isn’t very prevalent in professional football or professional sports for that matter. I didn’t really know what to expect with my rehab. The doctors didn’t really have a good timeline or really know what to expect in terms of when I would be ready to get back on the field. It was kind of a trial and error thing for all of us. Fortunately, we were smart with it and I got back out there when I was ready.”
Did you do a lot of research and homework on doctors before surgery?
“We consulted with a lot of different hip specialists around the country. We sent images to doctors all over and I personally visited a bunch of them. We just wanted to get as many eyes on it as we could and get as many opinions of the injury and the recovery and what it would take. That was the process. Through all of that, I learned about my own hip and hips in general. It was good to be able to consult with so many people.”
What did the Ravens support mean to you?
“They could have easily gotten rid of me and moved on. They were able to give me the time I needed to fully recover. The Ravens organization from top to bottom has been tremendous through this process. It hasn’t been easy for them or me. There was a lot of uncertainty on both ends and whether I would be able to get back out there and contribute. I just have to be thankful for their support of sticking by me and allowing me to continue my career.”
There’s another Dennis Pitta in Baltimore. How did you hear about him and what did you do for him?
“He actually contacted my parents when I first got drafted by Baltimore and a relationship developed there. There aren’t a lot of Dennis Pittas around the country. It was kind of funny that there was two in Baltimore. We actually set up a meeting where he works (as a professor) at the University of Baltimore and surprised him. We were able to do a meet and greet there. We gave a signed jersey, got some tickets for him and his family and we were able to get them to a game.”
You are a California native. What adjustments did you go through coming east?
“It’s different. The first time we really spent any time on the East Coast was when I got drafted. I have been a West Coaster my whole life. It’s an adjustment getting used to the weather, food, and the culture. Everything from top to bottom was new for us. I think the most difficult thing was being across the country from our friends and family. It was adjustment, but we really have grown to love Baltimore. My family comes out often. For just about every home game, we have family either from my side or my wife’s side out visiting.”
What is your favorite sport other than football and what teams to do root for?
“I would say my favorite sports besides football are probably basketball and golf. I like to play a lot of golf in the offseason. Basketball has always been a love of mine. It’s something I have enjoyed playing over the years. The older I have gotten, the more cautious I have to be on the basketball court. Golf has been a nice alternative for me.”
What is your favorite restaurant?
“I would say the food market downtown. It’s a terrific spot. I also like Nalley Fresh. It’s kind of like a salad place. I like all food, but I like Thai food a lot. My palate has changed over the years. I have become more sophisticated. I don’t do a lot of Taco Bell anymore. On the West Coast, we are used to a lot of good Mexican food. It’s not as prevalent out here. You have to transition to more seafood, Italian, and stuff like that. That’s OK by me.”
You devote your time to what charities?
“We do work every year with Goodwill. We actually have a Halloween event I host. It’s for Goodwill and their charities. I got into it during my first year. It was something former Ravens tight end Todd Heap was part of it. When I first got to the team, I came out to support Todd. Shortly thereafter, he left and I just kind of took over as the host.”