When wide receiver and punt return specialist Dante Pettis, a second-round draft pick by the 49ers, hit waivers back on November 3, the New York Giants couldn't wait to scoop him up.
But about with COVID-19 soon struck Pettis, who was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on November 20, delayed his Giants debut for a couple of weeks, Pettis not being activated until December 1.
Still, it took almost another month before Pettis was finally active for a game, that being last week's contest against the Baltimore Ravens where, in his Giants debut, Pettis caught two out of three pass targets for 33 yards.
"He had an opportunity last week to get up for the game. He did, he made some plays," said head coach Joe Judge. "He’s had a good week of practice."
The reason for the longer than usual delay was that the COVID-19 virus hit Pettis, who had to self-isolate when he first arrived at the Giants, and then again when he tested positive, hard.
"The first quarantine wasn’t too bad. It was like six days, and I could still do workouts," he said. "But then the second one when I got COVID was a little rougher because I wasn’t supposed to work out or anything.
"I was just in my room for, I think it was 10 days. After about six days, I started to feel better so I could walk around and everything. But I lost probably eight pounds. When I came back, it was just my body was a little weaker. It took a while to kind of get back up to speed after that."
"It was one of those deals where it took him a little bit of a while to get going. Not that he couldn’t learn or couldn’t get going--it just took him a while to kind of get his feet set in the system," he said.
Pettis, who at Washington returned nine punts for touchdowns, said he's feeling a lot better after his COVID-19 ordeal. As he began to get his strength back, he then had to build chemistry within the Giants offense, a process that didn't happen overnight.
"I think just the terminology in the first week and a half," he said when asked what the most significant transition was. "It almost felt like I was learning a new language for the first couple of days. I had no idea what certain words meant and all that. But everybody was very helpful in trying to get me up to speed.
"If I had any questions, they would always help. They would be like ‘Oh no, you got this.’ All the receivers too, if I was lined up, they checked in like ‘You good? You got it?’ Yeah, so the first week and a half was rough but after that, extra meetings and everything it kind of went a lot smoother."
Pettis, who said he's excited to be a Giant, said getting those first receptions felt good because he was contributing something and getting a firsthand feel for the offense's flow.
In the future, he'll likely be in the mix at punt return for the Giants since that's one of his strengths. But could he also be considered for kickoff returns?
He said that is up in the air, given that he hasn't returned kickoffs since high school.
"I don’t know why I didn’t really do it in college but it just didn’t happen like that," he said, adding that he did have one kickoff return for the 49ers his year before their cutting him. "I’ll do it. I have no problems with it."
He'd also have no problems with an increased role on offense, especially if receiver Golden Tate, listed as doubtful for this weekend, can't play.
"I think his involvement in the offense is growing with his knowledge of the schemes and the system and that’s been big," said Judge.
"Obviously, he has some athletic ability. He’s shown he can get open, beat man coverage, find some holes in zones."
Even if that doesn't happen, Pettis is thankful for the fresh start afforded to him and looks forward to whatever opportunities lie ahead.
"It’s been crazy for everybody, not just me. No one really saw any of this coming. There were certain things that threw me for a loop in particular with just the way the season started for me, getting cut and all that, coming out to New York," he said.
"But I’m happy with how everything has turned out. I like being here. Like I said, I’m happy with how things have gone."