OWINGS MILLS, Maryland — On the advice of doctors, Dennis Pitta reluctantly abandoned hope of playing for the Baltimore Ravens this season.
Next year, however, is still on the table.
The Ravens announced Wednesday that Pitta would be placed on injured reserve, a decision that came after his personal physicians and team doctors deemed it unsafe for the tight end to return from right hip surgery.
"Obviously, I really want to play. This is what I feel like I want to do and should do," Pitta said. "It's difficult for me, accepting the fact that I won't be out there this season."
Pitta caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl following an outstanding 2012 regular season in which he had 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven TDs. He fractured and dislocated his hip on the first day of training camp the following July and played in only the last four games.
Pitta got off to a good start in 2014 before again dislocating his hip in Week 3. He finally returned to the practice field three weeks ago, but his hopes of joining the active roster have been dashed.
"It didn't quite respond the way we had hoped, and sitting down with doctors over the last couple of days, we decided that it was certainly too much of a risk at this time," Pitta said.
He emphasized the last three words, because the 30-year-old is not ready to call it quits.
"I think no player wants to play their last play getting carted off the field," Pitta said. "I'll continue to work, and hopefully that won't be the end of the story."
Pitta said during the past three week there were "things — both on and off the field — that weren't feeling right." He considered long and hard about playing through the pain before finally adhering to the advice of physicians.
"Obviously, I'm not playing right now because the risk is high," Pitta said. "But I'm a football player and that's what I've always wanted to do. ... I feel a sense of duty to be able to go out there and help my team, and I love football. I love competing and I love playing at the highest level. It's something I don't feel like I'm ready to give up."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh wore a grim look as he considered what Pitta went through in an effort to be part of a team that has struggled this year in his absence.
"You had hopes. I was hoping he'd be able to play, and to see him come out here (in practice) and really perform well, that part of it was a plus," Harbaugh said. "But the other thing that overrides that is the fact that we want what's best for the player. His safety and going forward as far as quality of life overrides all. It's not really close."
When Pitta was healthy, he was a favorite target of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. During the 2012 postseason, the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder had 14 catches for 163 yards and three scores.
"It's great to have a guy like that you know you can go to, and you know what he's going to do," Flacco said. "He's going to be in the right spot, he's going to win and he's going to catch the ball. When you have a guy like that on the field with you, it makes your job a little easier."
Understanding that Pitta would have difficulty of returning after a second hip surgery, the Ravens drafted two tight ends in 2015 — Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle. Along with second-year pro Crockett Gillmore, the trio has combined for 43 catches this year.
Pitta will stick around to make sure they keep on improving.
"Obviously, they have a lot to learn and a lot of growth in front of them," Harbaugh said. "Dennis has been already there with them throughout, and my understanding is I've asked him to continue to be here with them throughout the season, every day. I believe he's going to do that."