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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Shanahan explains what he meant by saying Dante Pettis is ‘still trying to earn a role’ with 49ers

Aug 28, 2019 at 3:00 PM--

A lot has been made of Kyle Shanahan's comments on Sunday indicating that Dante Pettis was still trying to earn a role with the 49ers. The San Francisco 49ers head coach was asked why the second-year wide receiver was playing so late into the preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Just because I believe he needed to be," Shanahan responded. "He's still trying to earn a role on this team, and he's still trying to show us what he's capable of doing, consistently."

The media interpreted the comments to mean that nothing is guaranteed for Pettis and went as far as to question whether or not the receiver would find himself on the roster come Saturday when NFL teams are required to trim their squads down to 53 players.

"Still trying to earn a role" might not have been what Shanahan meant to say or it should not have been interpreted as "earn a roster spot." Saying "identify a role" instead might have made things clearer. The coach explained on Tuesday what he meant by the weekend's comments and clarified that Pettis will be on the roster come Saturday.

"I know a lot's been said about the quote that I had on him," Shanahan told reporters, "but Dante's not in jeopardy of not making our team or anything, but we are still trying to find out a role for him. When you have a guy like Dante, it can be a compliment to him, too."

Shanahan went on to explain that Pettis is capable of doing so many different things, and the coaching staff is trying to identify his role with the 49ers, not trying to determine if he will earn a roster spot.

"He's a guy who's capable of having any role on this team," Shanahan continued. "He can be our best player on this team. He could be our best punt returner. He could be our number one receiver, our number two receiver, our slot receiver, or just a role receiver. He has the ability to do all of that and he has shown that he can do all of that, but he hasn't shown it consistent enough that we know exactly where to put him. So, that's really what I was trying to word there.

"I have been hard on Dante, but if anyone knows me, I am the hardest on people that I believe in. I do believe in him a lot, and I am always going to be probably a little disappointed because I think he can be very good. It's important to our team that he is."

Shanahan joined KNBR later on Tuesday and reiterated what he told reporters about Pettis, saying once again that he is the hardest on the people he truly believes in.

"I have very high expectations for Dante, and I meant what I said," Shanahan explained on the "Tolbert, Krueger and Brooks" show. "He is still trying to earn his role, and for us to figure out his role, and it's a different case for Dante. He's not in jeopardy of not making this team. He's going to be on our team. But Dante, he has the ability to where his role can be almost anything."

Added Shanahan, "There's lots of roles that Dante is capable of taking and owning, but those are up to him, and I'm waiting for him to take them. I want him to because I think he's good enough to."

Shanahan went on to say that he expected Pettis to make a big leap heading into his second NFL season and lock up a starting receiver role.

"He hasn't completely done that yet," Shanahan continued. "There's things you've got to do in the offseason and stuff that lead to that, and I think those things are over, so it had him a little bit behind the eight ball on it. But now, I'm just trying to get him to fight and get to the best that he can right now.

"It really doesn't matter whether he's a starting guy or not. I want him to be as good as he can at this point, and I want him to play a little harder, and play a little more consistently. I think Dante is working through that.

"I think a lot of things with Dante have come fairly easy to him throughout his career because he is very talented. He's a guy who has never been considered a guy who doesn't work hard or anything, but he's very talented, and I don't think he's had to fight for a lot of things because he's been better than most of the people he's gone against."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Shanahan below.

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