Anticipating the snap count, Ravens inside linebacker Josh Bynes adeptly timed up his blitz to sack backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor on Sunday during an open practice at the Naval Academy.
A year ago, Bynes was unable to practice at all after fracturing three bones in his lower back just four practices into training camp.
Working his way up from the practice squad to the active roster, the former undrafted free agent finished the season with a career-high 31 tackles in three starts and 10 games. Bynes capped the Ravens' season by tackling San Francisco 49ers return specialist Ted Ginn Jr. on the final play of Super Bowl XLVII.
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"It's been a year since I broke my back," Bynes said. "At the time, I was very worried about what it was going to be like. I worked my way up and was able to help the team."
Now, Bynes is looking to build on a solid season. He's seen significant work so far in camp with the first-team defense.
"Yeah, it's going good so far," Bynes said. "I'm just looking each and every day to get better. Just to be a part of this defense is a great thing. It's a great tradition here in Baltimore for defense. I'm doing all I can to get on the field."
Bynes is listed as the second team weakside inside linebacker behind Jameel McClain, making him a defactor starter for now since McClain is on the physically unable to perform list with a spinal cord contusion.
"Josh has done well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He’s competing for a starting spot, so I don’t know what more you can say than that. That’s probably the highest praise you could give a guy."
The Ravens are starting veteran Daryl Smith at Mike or middle linebacker following an offseason where Ray Lewis retired and Dannell Ellerbe signed a $35 million contract with the Miami Dolphins.
Rookie second-round inside linebacker Arthur Brown has had his moments, but hasn't been anointed as an immediate starter. The Ravens have a tradition of making rookies earn their starting jobs.
Bynes is squarely in the mix for playing time on defense and is expected to contribute on special teams.
"Of course, there's an opportunity there," he said. "There are some good guys here, just great linebackers. It's going to be competitive throughout camp."
A starter on a national championship team at Auburn, Bynes spent the entire offseason in Baltimore. The 6-foot-1 former undrafted free agent has bulked up to 245 pounds, but appears leaner than a year ago.
"I feel like I'm in really good condition," Bynes said. "I'm just a little bit bigger and I put on some good weight. I made sure I'm in good shape. I'm doing all I can.
"I've been here the whole time working to get better each and every day. I've never been a guy who gets satisfied. I stay humble and hungry."