SANTA CLARA -- Wide receiver Dante Pettis had an epiphany after putting on a uniform for the final time last season.
His soul-searching began when he received word that he would not suit up for Super Bowl LIV.
Pettis had not caught a pass since Week 8 of the regular season. He was among the 49ers' 46 active players for both playoff games but did not step onto the field to participate in the games against Minnesota and Green Bay.
And in the biggest game of the season, the 49ers opted to go with just four wide receivers, leaving Pettis to watch the game as a spectator.
“If that doesn’t change the way someone approaches the offseason, they don’t really want to be in the NFL,” Pettis said Friday during a video conference with Bay Area reporters.
“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 has come back stronger. His improvements have been noticeable this summer.
Coach Kyle Shanahan on Thursday complimented Pettis’ demeanor, aggression and overall game.
Pettis said he knew he was capable of doing so much more as a professional athlete after the 49ers traded up to select him with the No. 44 overall selection in the 2018 draft.
He plans to reveal more information about his offseason at a later date, he said. But it is clear he is in a better place, mentally and physically.
“I allowed myself to be who I know I can be,” Pettis said. “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.”
Coming off a promising rookie season, Pettis was expected to be the team’s No. 1 receiver last season. But the coaching staff was quick to observe that he reported to camp in worse shape than when he left the team’s offseason program.
Shanahan was brutally honest with Pettis throughout last year.
Pettis said he resisted Shanahan's approach. But, now, he said he can see that Shanahan was only trying to help him tap into his potential.
"Last year I took his coaching the wrong way and I made it more personal and about me than about me realizing how good he knows I can be,” Pettis said. “I got caught up in the way he said some things and not in the actual message that he was trying to get to me.
"Once I realized that, everything kind of changed and I think our relationship is really good. It's open and we communicate. When I came back we had a good talk. I think we have a really good relationship now."
Pettis does not face an easy chore to make the team.
The 49ers are hopeful Deebo Samuel will be available for the season opener. Kendrick Bourne, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Taylor, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, Tavon Austin, Jauan Jennings and Shawn Poindexter are also among the receivers fighting for roles with the club.