Ravens can't count on Pitta to continue NFL career

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INDIANAPOLIS — Ravens head coach John Harbaugh isn’t giving up hope on tight end Dennis Pitta returning to the football field.
But it’s clear the organization isn’t planning on it at this point.
Speaking at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Harbaugh had “nothing definitive” when asked about Pitta’s football status after he suffered two right hip dislocations and fractures in a 14-month period. The 29-year-old has recovered from the second injury suffered in Week 3 of the 2014 campaign, but it hasn’t been determined whether he’ll return to action for the Ravens.
“It’s between Dennis and the doctors right now,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed, but only for what’s best for Dennis. There’s no way in the world that you want anything other than the fact that he can be safe. His hip is fully recovered in the sense of the blood flow is there. There’s no lingering problem from either one of the injuries, so he’s in great position to live a great life, which is the main thing.
“Whether that goes to the next step that he wants or is able to play football — that will be up to them. I’m like you; I’m waiting to hear.”
The Ravens can’t plan on it with 2014 third-round selection Crockett Gillmore the most experienced tight end currently under contract for the 2015 season. Veteran Owen Daniels caught 48 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns in his first season in Baltimore, but the 32-year-old will be a free agent and has an injury history of his own to consider.
General manager Ozzie Newsome is expected to look to the draft this spring where he will consider prospects such as Minnesota’s Maxx Williams and Florida State’s Nick O’Leary in an underwhelming class of tight ends. In the meantime, there’s nothing the Ravens can really do with Pitta’s five-year, $32 million contract signed last offseason that includes a $4 million base salary that’s fully guaranteed for the 2015 season.
In fact, cutting Pitta right now would cost the Ravens more salary-cap space than keeping him on the roster as he tries to improve enough to make a return at some point. A post-June 1 release would not result in any cap savings, either, making his contract untouchable from a cap standpoint until next season.
“We have nothing to lose by just letting it play out,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got a guaranteed contract for next year, so financially, he’s in good shape. We’ll just have to see where it goes. We’ll just plan accordingly.”