SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The disappointing finish to Dante Pettis’ second season in the NFL served as the fuel for his offseason.
Pettis was a spectator down the stretch for the San Francisco 49ers last season. He was active but never saw the field in the five games leading up to the Super Bowl when he was made inactive despite being healthy.
“If that doesn’t change the way someone approaches the offseason, they don’t really want to be in the NFL,” Pettis said Friday. “There’s not too many things worse than that football wise that could get you going, being inactive for the Super Bowl. That was kind of the final straw.”
Pettis said he did a lot of self-analysis in the offseason, saying there were factors that were holding him back from developing into the player he believed he could be.
Pettis said he didn’t want to get into those reasons now but will address them eventually. He said the time in quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic helped him eliminate distractions and he has returned looking like a better and more confident player on the practice field.
“I’m more in tune with myself. I feel like I’m stronger, a little bigger,” he said. “I’m more confident knowing that I put the work in this offseason. Not that I didn’t work last offseason because I definitely did. But this offseason was more purposeful. I did my workouts with a purpose. Every single rep was for a reason instead of just going through the motions and getting in there and working hard. It was like, ‘OK. I’m getting better today.’ That goes a long way.”
The difference has been evident to observers, teammates and coaches.
“I saw him right away when he came in and we got to talk and you could just tell his mindset, how his body was, that he spent the time away from us doing everything he could to put himself in a position to make this team and to be as successful as he can be,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I’ve been very proud of Dante so far and I think it showed.”
Shanahan was hard on Pettis a year ago, believing he could build on the promise he showed as a rookie in 2018 and become a consistent contributor.
Pettis didn’t handle that well, saying he took the coaching the wrong way.
“I made it more personal and about me than about me realizing how good he knows I can be,” he said. “I got caught up in the way he said some things and not the actual message that he was trying to get to me. Once I realized that, everything kind of changed. I think our relationship is really good. It’s open and we can communicate. When I came back, we had a good talk and I think that we have a really good relationship now.”
The Niners traded up in the second round to draft Pettis in 2018 and he showed flashes as a rookie with 17 catches for 338 yards and four TDs during a four-game stretch late in the season before he reinjured his knee.
That didn’t carry over into last season. He played just two snaps in the opener, caught no passes Week 2 and then caught the game-winning TD pass the following week against Pittsburgh.
That proved to be an aberration as he had only six more catches the rest of the season, finishing with 11 for 109 yards before not catching a single pass after Week 9.
The 49ers might need Pettis more now than ever thanks to a thin receiving core. They lost Emmanuel Sanders in free agency and the other starter from last season, Deebo Samuel, is recovering from a broken foot and might not be ready for the opener.
Pettis said he doesn’t feel any extra responsibility.
“Everybody kind of said I was done,” he said. “It is what it is. But there’s a responsibility for every single receiver in the room. It’s not just like, ‘Oh, these guys are down now. OK, Dante, you were a second-round pick so step up.’ Whoever is in the room, people have to step up no matter what.”
NOTES: DT D.J. Jones had tests on his injured shoulder that forced him out of practice early Thursday but there were no results. … RB Tevin Coleman missed practice for precautionary reasons because of the poor air quality from fires in Northern California.
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