Josh Bynes has grown accustomed to being an underdog, the proverbial forgotten man in the middle of the Ravens' defense.
The veteran inside linebacker started the first six games of last season at weak-side inside linebacker until Jameel McClain replaced him in the lineup after being activated from the physically unable to perform list.
Now, Bynes is determined to make his presence felt at inside linebacker as he competes for playing time with first-round rookie C.J. Mosley and 2013 second-round NFL draft pick Arthur Brown.
"I know a lot of people don't think about me as a guy who is able to, with C.J. and Arthur being here, still has the potential to be a starter this year," said Bynes, who recorded 41 tackles and three pass deflections last season. "I think I'm an afterthought, but it's fine with me because I was an afterthought last year as well and I ended up starting the season. You always have to prove yourself, but I'm here for a reason and I'm always going to show people what I'm all about."
This isn't the first time that Bynes hasn't been the first choice in a football situation.
Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Ravens in 2011 after winning a national championship at Auburn, Bynes overcame three fractured bones in his lower back to make the practice squad.
He progressed from the practice squad to become an emergency starter a year later at middle linebacker during the Ravens' Super Bowl championship season when Ray Lewis was sidelined with a triceps injury during the regular season. Bynes started three games that season and had 31 tackles.
It was Bynes who made the last tackle of the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers, ending the game when he brought down Ted Ginn Jr.
"I still can be a starter, and the coaches believe in me," Bynes said. "I can rotate in and contribute whether I'm a starter or working in. I've been here for a long time. I've played both inside linebacker positions.
"It's pretty positive. They can put me wherever they need me. Of course, during camp it's going to come down to who plays the best. That's who's going to be on the field when the games start."
Bynes played with the starting defense when middle linebacker Daryl Smith didn't attend some voluntary organized team activities.
"I stay humble and hungry," Bynes said. "Ever since I've been here, I've had that 'next man' mentality. I switched from Mike to Will this year. Whenever I'm called upon, I'll do an even better job this year and I'll be prepared and ready to make plays.
"There are some little twists in the calls we've made, which I think willl help us a lot. It's really going to be a good year. I'm trying to make some plays and do what I can for the team this year."
Bynes is the same weight as last season, but appears leaner and quicker this offseason.
"It's good to get leaned up and get a little more cut," Bynes said. "Your body starts to change a little bit in a good way. It's going to be beneficial to try to move and be faster on the field. I still have the same power when it's time to come downhill. Trust me, it's still there."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun