In mid-July, the Ravens were expecting big things out of tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson this season.
Now, the Ravens might be counting on Dallas Clark and Visanthe Shiancoe for the season-opener against Denver on Sept. 5. How things can change quickly in the NFL.
First, Pitta dislocated and fractured his hip which will be tough for him to return this season from. Then Dickson partially tore his hamstring, which has left his availability for the Denver game in doubt.
In fact, ESPN's Chris Mortensen, appearing on the network's NFL Insiders program, said it's unlikely Dickson plays Week 1. The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson tweeted that a league source is predicting that Dickson will be ready for the opener.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>With clock ticking to Sept. 5 opener, Ed Dickson now lightly jogging. One source close to situation predicts he'll be ready. Fluid situation</p>— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) <a href="https://twitter.com/RavensInsider/statuses/367618380997472257">August 14, 2013</a></blockquote>
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In the event he's not, Clark and Shiancoe will be the tight end tandem for the game. Both had stellar careers but are long past their prime. But both are eager to prove they have a lot left in the tank.
"I'm starting to learn the playbook, get my feet up under me," Shiancoe said. "It feels good to get back into the mode of everything."
After Tuesday's practice, Clark told reporters that his veteran status actually helped him the free agent process, even though it took awhile to land with a team.
"It's one of those things that I have the luxury to kind of be picky, and I was," Clark said. "There were a few other teams early on that we chose not to play for, and so I wanted to be in the right situation where I feel with my skill set I can help, and I think this is a place that obviously wants to win, has proven they can win, and I just want to be a small piece of helping them to do that."
Both tight ends have had their share of success. In 2009 with Indianapolis, Clark caught 100 passes for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns. Clark also had an 11-touchdown season in 2007.
Shiancoe's highest yardage total was 596 with Minnesota in 2008. He followed that mark with a season-best 11 touchdowns a year later in 2009. Shiancoe will certainly welcome more passes thrown his way if given the chance in Baltimore.
"You know what I always say? Tight ends are fake-ass wide receivers," Shiancoe said. "It's always good to go out there and catch passes. It's what we go out there and live for, to tell you the truth. Any tight end that tells you he loves to block more than receiving -- uh-uh. He's lying."
Quarterback Joe Flacco had developed a rapports with Pitta and Dickson over the past three seasons. Through the rest of the preseason, Flacco will need to learn on the fly with his two new tight end targets.
"You can talk about it all you want on the sideline with your coaches and stuff like that, but I need to know what he's thinking, where he needs me to be on certain situations and things like that," Clark said. "That's how Peyton [Manning] and my relationship [was], and that's how we had the most success. It's just, ‘Where do you need me? What are you thinking when you see this?' We just talk it out, so I'm looking forward to those conversations and getting on the same page."
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