Could this be Ray Lewis, the Sequel?
The Baltimore Ravens announced they have placed tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) on the Injured Reserve-Designated For Return list Wednesday. Just like Lewis last season, the Ravens originally believed one of their top players was done for the year. And, just like Lewis, they're giving him a chance to come back toward the end of the season and perhaps the playoffs.
Unlike the players who have been put on this list in the AFC North -- Cincinnati wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, Cleveland guard Jason Pinkston and Pittsburgh tight end Matt Spaeth -- Pitta isn't guaranteed to return this year. When coach John Harbaugh has addressed Pitta's situation, he's talked about the "optimism" of getting him back.
"Dennis is a great player," Harbaugh said earlier this week. "And this is an opportunity that seems like it might make sense."
There is only a slight risk involved by giving this designation, which can be placed on just one player this season, to Pitta. If one of the Ravens' star players -- like Joe Flacco, Ray Rice or Terrell Suggs -- sustains an injury that will sideline them eight to 10 weeks, the Ravens would have to use one of their spots on the 53-man roster on a player who can't play for a significant period of time.
But, if Pitta has any chance of coming back, this is a move the Ravens had to make. He is the Ravens' best target on third downs and in the red zone. He is Flacco's best security blanket with Anquan Boldin gone.
A team that has gone to the playoffs in each of the past five years, the Ravens understand what kind of a boost it would be to get Pitta back for the postseason. They experienced it last season when Lewis did it.
Even if Pitta can't come back, it's remarkable that there was a chance of him doing so. He fractured and dislocated his hip in the first week of training camp. The discovery that there was no ligament or cartilage damage opened the door for his return.
"I would love to play this season," Pitta told the team's website last week. "I think there's a possibility of me coming back. There's also the possibility that I won't be back until next season. I'm prepared for both decisions. Right now, I'm taking it day-to-day and doing everything they allow me to do. I'm getting stronger every day.”
Still, the Ravens believe there is a chance. It's the same faith they had when they put Lewis on the IR-Designated For Return list last year.