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Injured Dennis Pitta showing progress, catching passes at practice for Ravens

Published: Sunday, Aug. 30 2015 5:08 p.m. MDT

Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta reaches out to catch a pass during NFL football practice at the team's training facility in Owings Mills, Md., Jan. 25, 2013, in preparation for Super Bowl XLVII. Pitta, who suffered a dislocated and fractured hip during training camp, was catching passes from the JUGS machine at practice last Friday, according to the Baltimore Sun. (Patrick Semansky, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta reaches out to catch a pass during NFL football practice at the team's training facility in Owings Mills, Md., Jan. 25, 2013, in preparation for Super Bowl XLVII. Pitta, who suffered a dislocated and fractured hip during training camp, was catching passes from the JUGS machine at practice last Friday, according to the Baltimore Sun. (Patrick Semansky, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Though there is no guarantee he will return to the field of play this season, former BYU tight end Dennis Pitta has increased his football activity recently, according to reports.

The Baltimore Sun reported that Pitta, who dislocated and fractured his hip during the Ravens' first contact practice of training camp, caught passes from the JUGS machine Friday.

“I got to be honest with you, I’m pretty impressed,” Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh told Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec. “He’s running quite a bit in here on these machines and he’s already catching passes. That’s a ways away time-wise. Every time I see Dennis, I got mixed emotions. I’m happy he’s doing so well and I’m not happy that he’s not already out there playing right now. He’s doing a good job.”

Pitta is on the injured reserve list with a designation to return. While he could return to play in Baltimore's Nov. 3 game against Cincinnati, the Sun said Pitta's return would likely be much later in the season.

Still, it's an encouraging sign for Pitta, who ESPN reported recently came off crutches. The defending Super Bowl champion Ravens would welcome the fourth-year tight end as soon as it's possible.

Pitta caught 61 passes for 669 yards and seven touchdowns last season, and added 14 catches for 163 yards and three scores during Baltimore's postseason run.

ESPN's Jamison Hensley said the Ravens miss Pitta more than Anquan Boldin, the team's leading wide receiver who was traded away to the San Francisco 49ers. A big reason for that assessment is the lack of production Baltimore is getting out of its tight end position.

Ed Dickson, who was drafted the same year as Pitta by the Ravens, was expected to pick up the slack with Pitta being sidelined. But he has struggled, with five catches for 76 yards through five games. Dickson had more drops (four) than catches (three) through the first four games, Hensley reported.

“Ed just needs to go catch the ball,” Harbaugh told ESPN's Hensley. “He needs to run fast, get open and catch the football, put it away and get up field. That’s all he needs to do. And if he’s thinking about anything besides that, he’s doing himself a disservice."

The Ravens also added veteran tight end Dallas Clark to compensate for Pitta's absence. While Clark has 16 catches for 175 yards, no tight end for the Ravens has caught a touchdown pass this season. Rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown leads the team with three touchdown catches.

Last year, Pitta's seven regular-season touchdown receptions were second only to wide receiver Torrey Smith's eight. And Pitta caught 61 of the 93 passes thrown his way (65.5 percent), according to Hensley.

Dickson showed some hope on Sunday in the Ravens' 26-23 win over Miami, however. He caught two passes for 51 yards, including a 43-yarder that set up a field goal.

“The guys came through. You’d have to start with Ed Dickson,” Harbaugh told baltimoreravens.com after the game. “I’m proud of Ed Dickson.”

Email: bjudd@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd

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