49ers rookie receiver Dante Pettis hard to miss at training camp


SANTA CLARA -- Whether his helmet was on or off, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Dante Pettis was easy to spot on the sixth day of training camp.

The rookie's hair, dyed blue, was certainly unique among his new teammates. It even managed to make his head coach feel old in the process. 

"I still consider myself somewhat young, but that's definitely the sign of difference in generations," 38-year-old head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters after practice on Wednesday. "[In] my age, we didn't roll like that. Now, I feel like it's kind of cool."

Pettis' game may have been more apparent than his hair. The 22-year-old, San Francisco's second-round pick in April's draft, flashed his playmaking ability during the 1-on-1 and 11-on-11 portions of Wednesday's practice. 

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo targeted Pettis in each of the last three plays of practice. The University of Washington product converted a first down on the first, keeping his feet inbounds on a 20-yard comeback route along the sideline to his left.

Former college rival Ahkello Witherspoon, who played at Colorado and against Pettis in the 2016 Pac-12 title game, broke up the pass intended for Pettis on the very next play. The rookie got revenge to finish off the day, however, and burned Witherspoon for an untouched, 40-yard touchdown reception to close out the day.  

Pettis has the ability to make defenders miss in space, as a record-setting nine career punt return touchdowns in college demonstrated. His walk-off touchdown showed he can do it at the line of scrimmage, too. 

"You can make guys miss with the ball in your hand, [then] you should be able to do that in routes, too," Shanahan said. "Combine that with the speed, and his hands, and his intelligence... you feel pretty confident he's going to continue to get better." 

Shanahan said that Pettis, like all first-year players, is still "going through some of his rookie bumps." He's still eight days away from his preseason debut, and continues to compete with second-year receiver Trent Taylor for reps on offense and in the return game. 

Yet, Pettis has made a clear impression on Shanahan and his teammates. 

"I think he's going to be a great receiver in this league," Beathard said. "He's got great hands. He'll come back to balls and make big-time catches. The last few days especially, he's made great strides as this camp has gone on." 

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