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Shanahan on Pettis: He’s been on a mission

Shanahan used Ahkello Witherspoon’s jump before he was injured as an exampmle

Divisional Round - Minnesota Vikings v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

This past season was supposed to be the year Dante Pettis stayed healthy and took his game to the next level. Health wasn’t the issue. Holding onto the ball was for the second-year wideout out of Washington. The San Francisco 49ers second-round pick in 2018 didn’t do much of anything over the final three months of the season. Here’s Kyle Shanahan on Pettis and his work ethic these next couple of months:

“I want to see that while he’s away, he’s been on a mission. That is what some guys go through. Dante did that his rookie year trying to make the league and stuff. He took a documented step back in the second year, which I’ve been around a lot of players who have done that. The players I’ve been around, which has been a ton, they go one way or the other: they keep being like that and usually filter out, or it’s a wake-up call for them. They come back, and you can see it in April, that ‘this guy treated January to April so much different than the year before,’ and it usually changes their career. I saw it with Ahkello (Witherspoon) the way he came back last offseason. He looked different, and you could tell he was on a mission. That’s why those first few games before he got hurt, he was playing at an extremely high level. And that’s what I expect to happen with Dante.”

Something tells me we’ll find out very early in the offseason whether “it” clicks for Pettis. The man has all of the talent in the world and has the ideal skillset for Shanahan’s offense, which made everything that happened in 2019 so bizarre. Confidence matters in this sport and Pettis didn’t play like a confident player. There were times he shied away from contact; there were other times where Pettis “went through the motions” running routes. That may have worked on a 4-12 team, but when you have Super Bowl aspirations, that’s not acceptable. I’m going to be a believer in Pettis so long as he’s on the roster. There’s too much talent there. From seeing what he can do in practice to watching Pettis warm up on the field before the games making acrobatic catches look routine while hanging in the air for seconds at a time—his rookie year was no fluke. Now it’s time to get past any mental hurdles.

On a separate note, Shanahan discussed Emmanuel Sander’s contract situation. Sanders is scheduled to hit free agency.

“He did everything we hoped for and more. I don’t think we would have got to where we got to without Emmanuel. I would love for anything to have Emmanuel back, but we’ve got to see how that plays out, too.”

There is no question the 49ers don’t reach the Super Bowl without Sanders. Not only was he a great player on the field, but he found a way to unlock the younger wideouts on the team. Free agency is going to be fun. Buckle up!