The health of the player comes first. That’s the No. 1 thing, his ability to withstand the rigors of a game. I think we’re on track that way, but we’ll just have to see how it plays out. —Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, on the possibility of Dennis Pitta playing against Minnesota
Two of BYU's greatest pass-catchers may be back on the field Sunday.
On Thursday, the New England Patriots re-signed former Cougar wide receiver Austin Collie. Collie had spent several weeks on the team earlier in the year before being released Nov. 5.
In Baltimore, former BYU tight end Dennis Pitta could return to game action this weekend after dislocating and fracturing his hip during practice in July. The Ravens play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun on Wednesday he hopes to have the tight end on the 53-man active roster against the Vikings.
Collie played four games for the Patriots after being signed initially on Oct. 3, even starting one game against Miami in Week 8. During that time, he had three catches for 34 yards, but he injured his knee during New England's game against Pittsburgh and was released Nov. 5. Against New Orleans on Oct. 13, Collie came up with two catches during the Patriots' game-winning drive.
It's been an on-again, off-again year for Collie in the NFL. In February, he was released by the Indianapolis Colts, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2009. He then spent training camp with the San Francisco 49ers before being cut prior to the regular season.
"You never like to have a player get hurt and certainly Austin was helping us and doing what we asked of him," Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said in a conference call after Collie was released in November. "But any time you have a situation like this that comes up during the course of the season, it provides a little spark of competition and (I) think that is healthy for any group on the team."
Now, Collie rejoins a Patriots team that has been dealing with receiver injuries throughout the season and has the chance again to prove he can contribute. According to ESPN, the team's top two rookie wideouts — Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson — have missed time recently with injuries.
Pitta, meanwhile, returned to practice for the Ravens on Nov. 27 after undergoing surgery following his training camp injury. On Tuesday, he saw a hip specialist in New York, The Sun reported. The Ravens have until Dec. 11 to add Pitta to the 53-man active roster; if they do not do so by then, he will be placed on season-ending injury reserve.
“It’s going to be a matter of how ready he is to play and healthy he is to play,” Harbaugh told The Sun. “(With) something like that, all the doctors are going to be involved. Those things are important things. The health of the player comes first. That’s the No. 1 thing, his ability to withstand the rigors of a game. I think we’re on track that way, but we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”
For Baltimore, which is in the heat of the AFC wild card playoff race with a 6-6 record, Pitta's return could be a major plus for the Ravens' offense that is still looking for consistent play from its tight ends. Last year during the team's run to the NFL championship, Pitta had 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season, then an additional 14 catches for 163 yards and three scores in the playoffs.
“He catches the ball. He runs well. He separates," Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco told the Sun about Pitta. "There's a lot of things that he does well. I think, overall, he just helps your whole offense."
Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd