The playmakers in the diesel package are back.
Tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta participated in practice on Saturday for the first time since sustaining their individual injuries. Pitta broke his right hand on July 30 in practice and Dickson sprained his right shoulder during a touchdown catch in Baltimore's first preseason game against Atlanta.
Both players were limited, though returning to practice 17 days before the start of the regular season is a good sign.
"I was very limited out there," Dickson said. "I didn't want to overextend anything. Ever since the day I went down I've been working to get back, staying in condition, run with the team, doing things as a team."
Dickson was able to extend his right arm above his ahead during the first 30 minutes of practice, when the media was able to watch. Pitta caught some passes but didn't go full speed.
"I think being able to get out there, running around and actually catch the ball a little bit, certainly helps my confidence," Pitta said. "It helps me understand that I'll be back playing soon enough. We'll be smart with it."
Both Pitta and Dickson will play important roles in Baltimore's hurry-up, no-huddle offense this year. The two tight ends combined for 933 yards and eight touchdowns a season ago, and are looking to build on those numbers.
The Ravens began utilizing both tight ends at the same time in what they call the diesel package, where Dickson and Pitta are both running routes and are targets to catch passes. Pitta became a third down safety net for quarterback Joe Flacco toward the end of the 2011 season. At times, Dickson's athleticism was a mismatch down the seam. Coach John Harbaugh was pleased to have both return to practice.
"They're both catching some passes and just moving," Harbaugh said. "They're both doing a great job of staying in shape in the weight room, they're doing the cardio."
Though both players have missed considerable time during practice, neither expect a drop-off in production on the field. They expect to pick up where they left off in terms of chemistry with Flacco.
"That's something we've been developing for a few years now," Pitta said. "I don't think it's something you lose right away. I think it'll come back quickly once I'm able to jump back in there and run with the offense."