Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta is lost for the season following hip surgery, a blow to the team in its bid to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Pitta was hurt Saturday, the third day of training camp, when he collided with safety James Ihedigbo in the back of the end zone while going for a pass from Joe Flacco.
“It’s the type of thing that he’s not going to be able to come back from this year,” coach John Harbaugh said Sunday. “There’s enough damage in there.”
The operation on Pitta’s dislocated hip occurred Saturday night. Harbaugh said Baltimore won’t know the full extent of the injury until getting the MRI results.
The Ravens moved quickly to fill the void, signing tight end Visanthe Shiancoe to a one-year contract Sunday. Shiancoe joined the team for practice and wore Boldin’s old number, 81.
Shiancoe, a 33-year-old free agent, played in only four games last season with New England. But he played in all 16 games in each of the previous nine seasons — the first four with the New York Giants and the next five with Minnesota.
He has 243 career catches for 2,677 yards and 27 touchdowns.
“We’re very excited to have him here,” Harbaugh said. “Played against him a number of times. … He’s been in the league a long time and has a great career.”
Pitta was one of the centerpieces of the offense during the Ravens’ run to the title last season. He was expected to take on an even bigger role this season after Baltimore traded top wide receiver Anquan Boldin during the spring.
The 28-year old Pitta, a fourth-round pick of the Ravens in 2010, had 61 catches last year, second on the team behind only Boldin. His seven touchdowns ranked second among receivers behind Torrey Smith.
Pitta also had 14 catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns in Baltimore’s four playoff games, including four catches for 26 yards in the Ravens’ 34-31 Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Despite the addition of Shiancoe, Baltimore is expected to rely heavily on third-year tight end Ed Dickson, who was drafted a round ahead of Pitta in 2010.
Dickson’s role diminished last season as Pitta emerged as a key piece of the offense, but he had 54 catches in 2011 and has been consistently praised by coaches and teammates for his play through organized team activities, minicamp and the beginning part of training camp.
“It’s tough, it’s tough,” Dickson said of Pitta’s injury. “You lose a brother like that. He’ll definitely be back. He’s a warrior, and I know he’s going to do treatment and try to get back as soon as possible. . I’ll pick him up on my back and do everything I need to do.”
Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.