Dante Pettis wants to run for NFL teams at some point before next month's draft, but it won't be this weekend.
After sitting out drills at the NFL Scouting Combine last week due to an ankle injury, Pettis told NFL.com that he will not work out at Washington's pro day on Saturday.
"I just didn't feel like it was ready yet," Pettis said of his lingering injury, which he initially suffered in November in a game against Washington State. "These drills, there's a certain way to do them to get the fastest time, and it takes a lot of reps to get that technique down. I didn't feel like I had enough time to get those reps in, so I'm just deciding to not push my ankle too hard right now and let it continue to heal and get better and better until I actually am 100 percent and am able to get all those reps in and not feel any pain whatsoever."
Pettis said teams are already aware of his situation and have been sympathetic to his quandary.
"I mean there are a bunch of teams that are like, 'It's a bummer that you're not going to be able to run, but at the end of the day, we want you to be 100 percent. We don't want you running at 90 percent. You being healthy is the main thing,'" Pettis said. "So that kind of made me feel good about this whole situation and feel like I don't have to rush it or do something where I'm not at 100 percent, where I'm not putting out my best numbers."
Already a touted route runner, Pettis wants to prove that he's one of the fastest receivers in the draft. While he joked he couldn't top the record 4.22-second 40-yard dash run last year by his former Husky teammate John Ross, Pettis said that when healthy, he can run a 4.37-second 40. That time would have placed him in a tie for the second-fastest 40 among this year's combine WRs.
In Pettis' mind, it's never been a matter of if he can prove his speed, but when.
"I know I can put up some really good numbers and kind of show teams that I am this athletic, I am this fast, I can do this. It's really important to me that I do that," Pettis said. "But on the other hand, being 100 percent is probably the biggest thing because if I'm not, it can carry over into OTAs or (training camp), if I don't ever give it time to completely heal. So that'll be the worst thing for me, (if it's not) fully healed by the time we start doing things."
Pettis already had at least an informal meeting with every team at the combine and had formal interviews with seven teams, including both of this year's Super Bowl teams (Eagles, Jaguars, Patriots, Ravens, Saints, Steelers, Texans). Pettis couldn't help but stand in awe of the company he was keeping.
"It's crazy because you're meeting a lot of new people," Pettis said. "It might be some new faces you don't recognize and all of a sudden there's one of the best coaches in the world in front of you. It's like, damn, it's so crazy to be in that position."
At the combine, teams focused on the health of his ankle and Pettis said they were "generally OK" with his decision to sit out drills until he was 100 percent. Pettis said he didn't get hit with any absurd questions, but was asked whether he was a dog or cat person (he said he loves cats) and if he was more into Harry Potter or Star Wars. Pettis waffled between the two franchises before settling on the boy wizard, although he said it was a hard decision.
Tougher decisions are surely to come, most of them revolving around his ankle. For guidance and advice, Pettis won't have to look far. His father, Gary, was a pro baseball player for 11 seasons. He won five Gold Gloves -- sweet hands run in the family -- before becoming a baseball coach. Pettis' cousin, Austin, was a college football standout at Boise State and played four seasons in the NFL for the Rams.
Pettis said his father and cousin have been looking out for him during this process, giving him tips along the way and walking him through these life-changing job interviews.
"He knows what coaches look for and what that whole process is like," Pettis said of his father, who's the third base coach for the World Series-champion Houston Astros. The elder Pettis is currently down in Florida for spring training, but he still texts Dante daily. When asked how his father has advised him to treat his ankle, Dante said "he wants me to get 100 percent before I do anything."
Pettis isn't at that point yet, but he's close. After spending this weekend in Seattle, it's back to the beaches of San Juan Capistrano to rehab with his trainer and get ready for whatever comes next. While it's hard for Pettis to watch his Washington teammates and SoCal beach buddies go full tilt in these workouts while he waits his turn on the sidelines, there's a bright side to watching the draft process play out from a bit of a distance.
"There were times where I was like, 'Man, I wish I was out there,'" Pettis said of the combine. "But I mean, seeing some of the guys that you train with or some of your teammate out competing, I was genuinely happy for them, just because I know what we've been through and also it's a big dream of theirs. So it was cool to seeing them being able to live out that dream."
Pettis is hoping his patience will pay off soon so that he can take another step toward living that dream, as well.