Jonjo Shelvey was "reticent" to play for England Under-21s after making his senior debut, according to Roy Hodgson.
The England manager named the Swansea midfielder in his squad on Thursday to face San Marino and Estonia.
Shelvey, 22, was capped against San Marino in October 2012, but has not played since captaining the under-21s against Scotland in August 2013.
"He would have been asked, if you like, to step back down after, in his eyes, stepping up," said Hodgson.
"I believe Gareth (Southgate, the under-21 coach) spoke to him and he was reticent, maybe, to play (for the under-21s) and as a result Gareth chose other people."
|Jonjo Shelvey tweeted:|
|"Feels good to be recalled. Thanks for the messages of support."|
Shelvey is still eligible to play for the under-21 side but, despite his impressive form for Swansea, has not been selected in the past 12 months.
"I advised Gareth to have a conversation with him and to make certain that he was going to be 100% on board," Hodgson added.
"If he did turn him down he wouldn't be the first player who's done that. I've had players who turned down first-team national places, which I keep to myself."
FA officials later claimed that Shelvey did not tell Southgate he was unavailable for under-21 duty.