Each week, we bring you a Q&A with a Ravens player, coach or team executive to help you learn a little more about the team. Today's guest is tight end Dennis Pitta.
How would you assess your growth with the Ravens?
Good. I'm comfortable in the offense, and it's more of a matter of continuing to gain experience and develop chemistry with [quarterback] Joe [Flacco] in the offense. Over time, it will continue to grow. Obviously, there's things I need to work on — just like everybody else.
Is it easy to develop a chemistry with Joe?
Yeah. I think on the field it takes a little bit of time. The biggest thing is, you've got to go out and you've got to make plays. You've got to catch the ball, and you've got to find ways to get open. If you're doing that consistently, that helps the quarterback trust you, and that's when the chemistry really starts.
Many thought that when the Ravens drafted Ed Dickson in the third round and you in the fourth round last year, both of you would be the New England Patriots' version of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Is that too much pressure to put on you and Ed?
No, not at all. We run a different offense from New England. We run the ball with more consistency, and when you have a great running back like Ray Rice and Ricky Williams, you want to get the ball in their hands. And we understand that. We're not throwing the ball 50, 60 times a game like some teams are. We understand our role and we don't feel any added pressure.
What was the biggest adjustment you had to make from playing at Brigham Young University to playing for the Ravens?
I think from a knowledge standpoint, having to learn a new system — considering how intricate the systems are in the NFL. I think a lot of college offenses are pretty basic. Coming to the NFL, you've really got to know the offense inside and out a lot more than you did in college. So that's a tough thing when you're young, especially when you're a rookie because if you don't know what you're doing, if you don't know your assignment, it's hard to play fast and hard to let your talent show.
BYU has a history of producing NFL tight ends like Chad Lewis, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Doug Jolley, formerly of the Oakland Raiders. Did they give you any advice about making the leap to the NFL?
Chad Lewis has been someone who — throughout my career at BYU and now into the NFL — I've stayed close with and talked a lot with. He's been a good guy to bounce questions off of, and he's really given me a lot of support and a lot of feedback and things that I'm able to use playing right now.
Has there been one piece of advice from Chad that has resonated with you?
I think the best thing was coming to work every day. You've got to prepare yourself every week because in the NFL, you can't take weeks off. Someone's always looking for your job. So you've got to continue to work hard and prepare every week.
I read somewhere that you ran a 4.5 40-yard dash while attending Moorpark High School in Moorpark, Calif. Is that true?
Yeah. I was a little bit thinner then because I was a wide receiver. But yeah, I was a track guy. I could run a little bit. People think that maybe I can't, but at the combine, I ran a 4.6. So it wasn't anything different.
You were a walk-on wide receiver at BYU before making the switch to tight end. Was that a decision that you had made?
The coaches came up to me and wanted to make the switch. I had never played tight end before in my life. It was an adjustment early on, but I was fortunate enough to be able to play quite a bit during my freshman year. It was a good transition for me obviously.
Did the anticipated increase in playing time help ease that position change?
Yeah, I knew that we were a little thin at tight end, and we had some good receivers at BYU at the time. It seemed like it made sense. Going into college, I knew I was a bigger wide receiver, and I knew that [playing tight end] was maybe something that was plausible in the future. I was receptive to the change.
After your freshman year, you did a Latter-Day Saints church mission in the Dominican Republic. Can you describe your experience there?
It was a tremendous experience for me. I was there for two years, and I kind of put football aside. I wasn't able to train a lot or really do anything football-related. But I was able to do a lot of service and good things for the people in the Dominican Republic. It's always an eye-opening experience when you go to an area that is poverty-stricken. You have to live how they live, and to see what other people go through really makes you mature a little bit and realize how blessed we are to live here and have what we have. I learned a lot during my time there.
Were you teaching English or building houses in the Dominican Republic?
The majority of our work was within the church, talking to people, teaching people about our faith. We'd do different service projects from time to time, teaching youths a little bit. But, for the most part, I was trying to learn Spanish and trying to communicate with the people through Spanish. I got pretty good after two years of being down there.
Have you retained that grasp of Spanish?
Yeah, for the most part. I haven't had to speak it in quite a while. But I think I'm still pretty fluent.
You are related to Arizona Cardinals quarterback Max Hall by marriage, but I didn't know that you both had married sisters.
Yeah. Max and his wife [McKinzi] were married and then they introduced me to my wife [Mataya], who is his sister-in-law. So we've been married now for three years, and it's been fun.
Max is currently on injured reserve due to a left shoulder injury. What sort of advice have you been giving him?
It's always tough. You kind of feel like you're away from the team for that year, and I know it's a tough position for him to be in right now. But he's a tough guy, and he's going to keep fighting, and he's excited to get back on the field next year and get a spot.
Is there one athlete or entertainer you would pay to see?
Probably Katy Perry. My wife would be OK with that. We both like Katy Perry.
I know you're fond of golfing. What was your average before mothballing the clubs for football season?
I love to play golf. I played a couple times a week down in Arizona where I spend most of the offseason. I'm not great. I just started two or three years ago. But I was getting down to where I was consistently shooting around the mid- to upper-80s, which isn't bad. But it's obviously a long way to go.Copyright © 2015, CT Now