Pitta never seemed like a bystander in Sunday’s 29-26 win over the Vikings even though he hadn’t played all season as he recovered from hip surgery.
Pitta, one of quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite receivers last season, matched Marlon Brown for the team lead by being targeted 11 times. And in his 2013 debut, Pitta came up with six receptions for 48 yards and the first of the five touchdowns in the last 2:05 of the contest.
Did he expect to be that big a part of the game plan right away?
“We stuck to the plan. I was anticipating being able to play this much,” Pitta said. “I think when we have that many two-minute opportunities, those are situations where I am going to be in the ball game. We didn’t anticipate we would be getting so many of them, especially at the end. But I felt good throughout the game and didn’t think about my hip, which is encouraging going forward, and was able to just go out and play.”
Pitta had been sidelined since the first week of training camp because of a dislocated and fractured hip that required surgery. At the time of the gruesome injury, the team believed Pitta had been lost for the season.
That obviously wasn’t the case, since he’s back out there for the last quarter of the campaign. Pitta became emotional when talking about his return after Sunday’s game.
“It’s great to be back,” he said. “I didn’t think my first game back would be in those conditions, and I didn’t really start the game the way I wanted to. The footing was bad, and I dropped one early. I was mad at myself for that. I was able to kind of bounce back. When the conditions improved, we really started moving offensively. ...
“It feels pretty good. I remember when I got injured, I didn’t know if I was even going to play football again, and so being able to stand here and talk about a victory and being a part of that is special for me. And just being a part of this team and being able to fight the way we did today is pretty remarkable.”
Flacco poked a little bit of fun at Pitta, especially at a diving catch in the snow.
“He looked a little goofy on a couple catches. Dennis is a good player,” Flacco said. “First of all, it’s just great (after) an injury like he had, to get back out on the field and contribute. Obviously, he’s going to get better and better as the weeks go on. He’s a huge player for us. He knows how to get open, he knows how to run routes, and he catches the football. He means a lot.”
Coach John Harbaugh expressed amazement that Pitta performed so well in his first game in more than 10 months.
“I think we all appreciate Dennis Pitta being back and what he means to our team,” Harbaugh said. “But for him to come out that first game after all the work he has put in ... When you see the work a guy puts in in rehab in this league to get back from an injury like that, then you appreciate a moment like that. ...
“He just makes plays, he catches the ball, he has got body control - all the things that you analyze. Those two guys (Flacco and Pitta) probably have something a little more. There is some kind of a chemistry there between those two guys that is probably hard to explain.”