The San Francisco 49ers are about a week into training camp, and it’s clear that wide receiver Dante Pettis put in the offseason work.
“He was one of the guys that I was looking forward to talking to the most,” 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan said earlier this week. “When he came in…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…It was his demeanor, the way he played, the aggression and his routes and everything. I’ve been very pleased with Dante so far.”
The former 2018 second-round draft pick spent much of last season outside of Shanahan’s good graces, and he was deactivated for the Super Bowl, and that changed everything for Pettis.
“If that doesn’t change the way someone approaches the offseason, they don’t really want to be in the NFL,” Pettis said Friday on a Zoom call with the local media. “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 like the final straw, you could say.”
Pettis said he will talk more about the specifics of his offseason down the line, but it’s evident that his mental and physical state are at a different level than in the past.
“I’m more in tune with myself,” Pettis said. “I feel like I’m stronger, a little bit bigger. I’m more confident knowing that I’ve put the work in, in this offseason. Not that I didn’t work last off season, 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, ‘Okay, now I’m getting better today.’ And I mean, that goes a long way.”
Pettis shared that he worked with a trainer to get stronger on a number of levels.
“I was working with my trainer, and we basically connected your physical and emotional sense and everything, and just connected that,” Pettis said. “And being able to reach back and be like, ‘Okay, look, no, I pushed physically through all of this stuff. How did that make you feel emotionally?’ And then being able to just go through all those processes, get to the point to where you want to quit…but you know you can’t because you have something that you want to get to, and being able to connect everything and just being able to reach back on that every single time. That was really big…I will get deeper into that eventually, but yeah. That’s pretty much it.”
The difference has not been lost on 49ers’ quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
“It’s very encouraging, just the physicality that he’s playing with, the competitiveness that he’s bringing,” Garoppolo said this week. “You love to see that and it’s just one of those things that you’ve got to keep it rolling.”
Pettis attributes part of his improvement to giving himself the freedom to be who he is on the football field.
“I allowed myself to be who I know I can be,” said Pettis. “Last year, I wasn’t playing the way I know I could’ve. I know I was capable of more. And I wasn’t allowing myself to do that. This year, the whole quarantine process really helped me, I think, just being able to step away from everything, not have any distractions and go one-on-one with myself.”
Cornerback Richard Sherman has seen the development as well.
“Pettis has made some really, really, really great strides this camp, just being consistent every day” Sherman said. “The ceiling is so high in what he can be, and I think he’s reaching that peak more consistently now. I think that’s what’s been impressive with him.”
With that, there seems to be a maturity and a deeper understanding on what can be controlled and what can’t.
“…I could feel really good about something because I made three good plays, but then there could have been six other plays where I didn’t do that good, and then the coaches are looking at those six plays,” Pettis said. “Or, I could have had two bad plays and I’m only focused on those, but they’re like, ‘No, look, you did these really well.’
“So, it is kind of hard, and catching passes isn’t the only thing that puts you on the radar. I know it’s what everybody else sees, but there’s a lot more to wide receiver than just catching the ball, especially during camp, because there’s only so many passes that go around…If I get six catches one day, great. If I get one, great. I know there’s always things that I can work on, and that’s my mentality too. It’s just getting better every single day…I know that there’s always going to be things that I need to improve on, but as long as I know that and I’m ready to accept that and fight through that, then I have a chance.”
As far as his relationship with Shanahan, Pettis has come a long way.
“Last year, I took his coaching the wrong way, I guess,” Pettis said. “And I made it more personal..than about me realizing how good he knows I can be. And I got caught up in the way he said some things and not the actual message that he was trying to get to me. And once I realized that, everything kind of changed, and I think our relationship is really good. It’s open, and we can communicate. When I came back, we had a good talk…We have a really good relationship now.”