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Pettis elevating his game to compete for 49ers roster spot

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Wide receiver Dante Pettis did not meet the expectations of the coaching staff when he reported to training camp last summer.

After putting together a strong offseason program, Pettis was in position to be the team's No. 1 receiver. But the staff believed it was apparent that other players on the team outworked him in the time leading up to training camp.

Pettis never recovered, and took a major step back from the promising conclusion of his rookie season.

This summer, Pettis is competing for his spot on the 49ers – and the NFL, for that matter.

For the first time in a long time, Pettis on Tuesday showed why the 49ers thought enough of him to select him in the second round of the 2018 draft, trading up to select him at No. 44 overall.

One day after the 49ers learned wide receiver Jalen Hurd would be out for the season with a torn ACL, Pettis showed up with his most active practice in a long, long time.

Pettis caught a team-best five receptions in the 49ers’ fourth practice of the summer. He had two catches apiece from Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens.

Perhaps, more important, Pettis made his catches in traffic over the middle. In order for Pettis to contribute to the 49ers this season, he has to show a willingness to take his routes into traffic to make the tough catches.

Pettis went into last season with momentum. He sustained a knee injury early in his rookie season and another one later in the season that landed him in injured reserve. But in the six games between his two injuries, he caught 24 passes for 371 yards and four touchdowns.


But while appearing in 11 games last season, Pettis caught just 11 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He was healthy for the Super Bowl, but the team opted to de-activate him for the game.

The onus is on Pettis to win a spot on the roster this summer, and it looks as if he is rising to the challenge.

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The door is open for him to make a strong impression with Hurd out, and Deebo Samuel (foot) and Richie James (wrist) on the non-football injury list. In addition, veteran receiver Travis Benjamin opted out. The 49ers last week signed J.J. Nelson and Tavon Austin, and are expected to sign Jaron Brown to add to the competition.

Pettis, the NCAA  record-holder with nine punt returns for touchdowns, also finds himself in the mix to act as a return man. He has been back fielding punts and kickoffs in practices this summer.