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John Harbaugh Seems Optimistic About Dennis Pitta's Return

December 2, 2013


OWINGS MILLS -- With the Ravens' 21-day decision window closing on tight end Dennis Pitta, head coach John Harbaugh seemed mostly optimistic that he could play during Week 14 against the Minnesota Vikings (1 p.m. Dec. 8; WBFF-TV, WIYY-FM).

"It's going to come down to the end of the week," Harbaugh said. "We have an idea that he's doing well, but the question is, how well?

"If he can play, he will. But we're not 100 percent certain on that at this point."

Pitta, who suffered a dislocated hip during the first week of training camp in late July, was placed on the Injured Reserve-Designated For Return list, a classification created in 2012 for impact players whose injuries might not be severe enough to keep them out for the year.

Ravens 2012: Dennis Pitta
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox

Only one player per year per team can be placed on the list; the Ravens used the designation last year on linebacker Ray Lewis (triceps).

Harbaugh reported that while the coaching staff reported to work the day after the team's 22-20 win against Pittsburgh Nov. 28, the players got the entire weekend off as a mini-bye of sorts. 

But for the coach, there was no dilemma as to which teams in the crowded AFC playoff race to root for or against.

"Our owner, Steve Bisciotti, told me who to root for and root against," Harbaugh said with a smile.

In-game injuries to cornerback Jimmy Smith, linebacker Elvis Dumervil and wideout Brandon Stokley don't appear to be serious, Harbaugh said.

Plus, the sideline incident between return specialist Jacoby Jones and Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin is something on which the Ravens aren't dwelling.

"There's a video the league sends out every week with five or six points they like to emphasize," Harbaugh said. "When a play is coming at me, I know to get out of the way.

"These guys are big and really fast. … Everyone should be held to a high standard. But we've moved on from that. Our focus is on Minnesota."

In other news:

- The league has announced that the anticipated Dec. 15 Cincinnati-Pittsburgh matchup -- with plenty of postseason implications for both the Bengals and Ravens -- will remain a Sunday-night kickoff game.

Because the Ravens don't play their Week 15 game until Dec. 16, the game in Detroit was in no danger of being moved; the Monday games have no relevance to the flex scheduling program.

There are two Ravens games left for which the kickoff times could be changed, the Dec. 22 home game with New England, which is already a Sunday-night game, and the Dec. 29 season-closing game at Cincinnati.

On Dec. 15, the New Orleans-St. Louis and Arizona-Tennessee games were moved from 1 p.m. to 4:25 p.m.

- Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata defeated Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu during the inaugural Blitz Hunger Rivalry Food Drive.

Ngata and the Ravens fans that supported him raised $33,838.50, while Polamalu and his Steeler-fan backers raised $25,563.

All funds benefited the Maryland Food Bank and the Western Pennsylvania Community Food Bank, as well as both Ngata's and Polamalu's player foundations.


JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME: Today's question:

With 27 consecutive field goals made, the league's longest current streak, the Ravens' Justin Tucker is nine away from the team record of 36, which Matt Stover set during the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

Tucker's streak began against the Houston Texans during Week Three. Against which teams did Stover's record streak begin and end?

The answer will be revealed at the bottom of today's column.


GOOD HANDS PEOPLE: For all the talk about the Ravens' injuries and lack of depth at wide receiver and tight end, quarterback Joe Flacco has had no shortage of targets to whom to throw this season.

Because running back Bernard Pierce caught three passes against Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving, the Ravens are on the verge of a team record that didn't seem possible at the start of the season.

Pierce became the 10th different player on the team to have 10 or more catches this season, tying a team record set when 10 players each had double-digit catch figures in 2004. Pierce now has 12 receptions this year.

Not only that, fullback Vonta Leach has nine receptions with four games remaining, so it's likely the record will be broken when Leach becomes the 11th to break the 10-catch mark.

As impressive as the achievement from 2004 may seem, it is a bit deceiving.

The Ravens ranked 31st -- next to last in the league -- in passing offense, averaging 144.5 yards per game. Quarterback Kyle Boller averaged 5.52 yards per pass attempt, and wide receiver Kevin Johnson led the team with 35 catches; wideout Travis Taylor was second with 34.

This year, Baltimore is averaging 227.9 passing yards per game, and Flacco's yards-per-attempt figure is 6.8 per pass -- his career average is 7.08.

Plus, receiver Torrey Smith (team-high 54 catches) and running back Ray Rice (43) both have more catches through 12 games than Johnson and Taylor did during 16 games nine years ago.

Flacco has averaged 7.5 different receivers per contest through 12 games, hitting as many as nine during one game (loss at Pittsburgh, win vs. Jets) and as few as five (win at Miami). 

Flacco has connected with eight different targets during a game six times, including the Week 13 win against Pittsburgh.

Wide receivers have caught 148 of Flacco's 262 completions, with running backs hauling in 64, tight ends getting 49 and a quarterback (backup Tyrod Taylor) getting the other.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: For all the good feeling the win against the Steelers engendered, quarterback Joe Flacco still said his team had one big obstacle to overcome:

"We've just got to be a little better. ... Mike Tomlin stopped us one time.

"… I took some flack for joking around in the Super Bowl and saying that maybe [I] should run onto the field and tackle somebody… [Tomlin] pulled my move."


JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME ANSWER: Here's the question we asked earlier in this column:

With 27 consecutive field goals made, the league's longest current streak, the Ravens' Justin Tucker is nine away from the team record of 36, which Matt Stover set during the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

Tucker's streak began against the Houston Texans during Week Three. Against which teams did Stover's record streak begin and end?


Stover's streak began on a brisk Halloween night in Pittsburgh.

On Oct. 31, 2005, Stover missed a 43-yarder at Heinz Field during a Monday-night game against the Steelers, one the Ravens lost, 20-19.

But Stover didn't miss for the rest of that season, hitting his next 20 in a row and 30 of 34 field-goal tries that season for a team that was riddled with injuries and finished 6-10.

Stover converted his first 16 field goals of the 2006 campaign, and then the streak ended Nov. 19 with a 42-yard wide-left kick against the Atlanta Falcons at M&T Bank Stadium.

That miss wasn't as costly as the one in Pittsburgh, as the Ravens trounced the Falcons, 24-10.

Joe Platania is in his 20th season covering professional football.