‘High-Motor’ Defender Reacts to the 49ers’ Roster Decision on Him

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Getty A 49ers helmet rests behind the bench during the Jaguars game played on November 21, 2021.

As impactful as the San Francisco 49ers defensive back room has been during 2022 training camp, unfortunately the injury bug has convinced the team to make some roster decisions.

And that includes waiving a player described as a “high-motor” defender who had been injured during camp. And the 49ers‘ roster decision prompted a succinct yet motivational reaction from that defender on the evening of Tuesday, August 9.

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3 Worded Motivation

With Charvarius Ward and Emmanuel Moseley — best known as the top starting cornerback options for the 49ers — out momentarily with injuries, S.F. decided to lure in another CB while also severing ties with the other.

The new addition is Ken Crawley, who signed a one-year deal with the 49ers officially announcing the move on Wednesday, August 10. The released 49er is undrafted 2022 rookie Leon O’Neal, who came over from Texas A&M and was praised for his “high-motor” ability and knack for flying around the football field in Bleacher Report’s draft profile of him.

O’Neal, however, told his Instagram followers that he has sustained a groin injury during one camp practice in Santa Clara. But following the 49ers’ roster choice for him, he took to his personal Twitter account to leave this shortened three-worded post:

His former high school coach at Cypress Springs in Texas Rick Cobia sent this post of motivation toward the former Aggies safety:

“Keep grinding! You are one of the hardest working players I’ve been around in my 37 years of coaching! You love the game! Your time will come!” Cobia posted to O’Neal.

For O’Neal, his waive comes in the aftermath of his disappointing draft period where no team gave him a call. He told Aaron Wilson of the Pro Football Network that he became more motivated than ever.

“I will never, ever forget the names they called,” O’Neal told the NFL insider. “I was projected from the fourth round to the seventh round, and for my name to not even be called at all, I wish those guys luck, but there’s no chance some of them are on my level. To fall because of a misinterpreted 40-yard dash time, to see a lot of that stuff, that was interesting to me. I had a lot riding on this.

“I ended up going undrafted, but it’s going to be fun,” O’Neal continued in his interview. “I’ve been playing ball at A&M for four years. I’ve seen the way the fans show love and support for me. That’s the cool part. Now, I’m getting embraced by the 49ers fans and representing the red and gold.”

Now, it’s a veteran who also came to the league as a UDFA getting his shot with the 49ers.


Who is Crawley?

The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder is entering his seventh season in the NFL.

He first arrived to the league via the University of Colorado — where he snatched 195 career tackles, tallied 160 solo stops, delivered 38 pass breakups, picked off three passes, forced one fumble and pounced on one loose ball per the CU website.

He signed with the New Orleans Saints on May 6, 2016 — where he had two stints in N.O. (2016-19, 2020-2021). In between, he was with the Miami Dolphins (2019). Crawley has appeared in 55 games with 25 starts.

Per Pro Football Reference, he’s registered 138 tackles, 32 passes defensed, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. His best season was 2017, which saw him deliver 17 pass breakups and a career-high of 54 tackles with 47 solo stops. Crawley finished with three tackles with the Saints in 2021.

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