The hardest thing for Dennis and it’s the same thing for me, is that there is a good chance your career is coming to an end and you don’t have a say or can’t do anything about it. —Former BYU Cougar Max Hall
Dennis Pitta has been down this road before.
His hip has been dislocated so many times, Bo Jackson must be calling.
Pitta knows the mileposts, the signs, the hours and hours with trainers and medical staff.
So has his former BYU teammate and brother-in-law Max Hall. He understands just how Pitta feels.
“It’s a tough thing. The hardest thing for Dennis and it’s the same thing for me, is that there is a good chance your career is coming to an end and you don’t have a say or can’t do anything about it,” said Hall. “That can be tough in itself and then having the same injury, you start worrying about long-term effects.”
Pitta has been remarkable in making three comebacks after a trio of hip injuries that may have ended the careers of many NFL players. His latest comeback last fall ended with Pitta leading all NFL tight ends in receptions — a sterling year — after signing a multimillion-dollar contract extension with the Baltimore Ravens.
Then, in a routine practice just over a week ago, without getting hit or making contact, Pitta busted up his hip again. The Ravens released him.
“I’ve talked to Dennis a bit and it was hard for him at first, but he seems to be doing better, doing OK, understanding it. Dennis is a great guy who is mentally tough, and he’ll be fine with it. It’s just tough right now,” said Hall.
Pitta is on a very long list of tight ends who made dominating plays in sterling careers at BYU. From Clay Brown to Gordon Hudson, Chris Smith, Chad Lewis, Itula Mili, Todd Thompson, David Mills, Andrew George and Johnny Harline, the list seems endless.
Pitta belongs among the top of that list. Is he done?
“I had surgery just over a week ago and really haven’t put much thought into my future,” Pitta told Baltimore media in a press conference. “I’m just concentrating on my rehab. It’s the third time I’ve dislocated my hip. I feel fine and hope to make a full recovery.”
Still, questions remain. Will he try to make another comeback? Is he finished? Is it time to hang it up and get on with life as a husband and father — a regular guy?
Even Pitta can’t answer that right now. Guys like him never want to give up.
“I’ve dislocated my hip three times, take it for what it is. I’m not delusional. I know and understand what that means. At the same time I’m taking it one day at a time and trying to get healthy, and that’s what really matters.”
Hall, the Cougar quarterback who hooked up with Pitta at BYU enough to make the big tight end an All-American and millionaire, totally understands what his friend is going through.
Hall suffered injuries after starting for the Arizona Cardinals that sidelined him and took away his dream. He tried making a comeback in the CFL but eventually had to hang it up and get on with his life, going through some tough times in the process.
“It was extremely difficult for me,” said Hall. “Extremely difficult. I wasn’t ready to be done. I tried to continue to go on and things just didn’t end up working out. It was hard on me. For Dennis, I think it will be hard on him, but he has a lot of things he can hang his hat on in the NFL. He’s done some fantastic things in his career that he can be proud of.
“But it will still be hard on him. I never got a chance to play in the NFL like he did, so he has those experiences and memories,” said Hall.
Pitta and Hall hooked up for several iconic plays during their college career together. One was a long touchdown pass at Colorado State in which Pitta caught and hauled down the scoring pass. He was sandwiched between two defenders about the time the ball got to his hands and his helmet popped off like a cork from a bottle.
“That catch and that play were unbelievable,” said Hall.
The other was a touchdown pass against Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl in Hall’s senior year. “It was a play where Dennis adjusted his route to the ball while it was in the air. I got beat up pretty good but he made the play for a touchdown. There are so many plays like that that Dennis made over the years.
“We had such a connection. I always knew exactly where he was going to be. I could judge his body language and react to it and get the ball where it needed to be to get to him. Guys like Dennis just made me look so good.”
Joe Flacco could say the same thing.
A Baltimore reporter asked Pitta if this latest hip dislocation seemed like deja vu. “That is one word to describe it. But it’s been more of a nightmare than deja vu.”
Pitta has been a force at every level he has played in his high school, college and NFL careers. But his on the field performances are equal to his ability to overcome adversity, the way and means of how he has done it to compete at the highest level.
If this is it, Pitta’s journey has been quite the ride.