SANTA CLARA – Dante Pettis was never able to recover last season from a disappointing opening to training camp.
This summer, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was excited with what he saw and heard when he first sat down to talk with Pettis at the beginning of his third NFL training camp.
“When he came in, I saw him right away and we had a chance to talk,” Shanahan said on Thursday. “And you could just tell his mindset, and how his body was, that he spent time away from us doing everything he could to put himself in a position to make this team and be as successful as he can be.”
Nothing could have been further from the case a year earlier.
Coming off a strong finish to his rookie season and an impressive spring, Pettis did not report to training camp as strong as he was during the team’s offseason program.
As a result, Pettis could not avoid nagging soft-tissue conditions. He did not have the strength to compete at a high level. He had trouble staying on his feet.
If Pettis remained on that path it was going to be a simple call for the 49ers to move on from him at the beginning of the regular season.
But Pettis has shown Shanahan that he is ready to put up a fight.
On Tuesday, Pettis had his best practice with five receptions. All of his catches were on throws over the middle – an area of the field Pettis has seemingly been reluctant to venture.
"He had a lot of opportunities, but it wasn’t just that,” Shanahan said. “It was the demeanor, the aggression, his routes and everything. I’ve been very pleased with Dante so far.”
And the 49ers need him to step up now, more than ever.
Jalen Hurd is out for the season with a torn ACL. Richie James is expected to miss at least six games of the regular season with a fractured wrist. The 49ers are hopeful Deebo Samuel will be available at the start of the regular season, as he returns from surgery to repair a fractured foot.
Pettis, whom the 49ers traded up to select with the No. 44 overall pick of the 2018 draft, did not catch a pass after Week 8 of last season. He was inactive for the Super Bowl despite being healthy.
Thus far, it appears as if Pettis has accepted the challenge.