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Ravens veterans showed Tyus Bowser what it takes to succeed. Now he has to take charge.

When Tyus Bowser arrived in Baltimore in 2017, Terrell Suggs was a teammate. So were Za’Darius Smith and Matthew Judon. Two years later, Pernell McPhee was back in the Ravens locker room. Bowser, over his first four NFL seasons, came to see almost every iteration of the team’s outside linebacker prototype: big and strong, outspoken and unapologetic, a pain to deal with on third-and-long.

After signing a four-year, $22 million contract extension last week amid a flurry of offseason moves, the soft-spoken, contemplative Bowser is now the unlikely face of the position. McPhee is there, too, and so is the similarly old-school Jaylon Ferguson, a former Day 2 draft pick like Bowser. But with the free-agent market thinning and the front office’s first-round plans next month uncertain, it is Bowser leading the Ravens’ edge rushers into the 2021 season.

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“I feel like that would be a big step for me coming into this year, being a fifth-year guy [and] a fifth-year vet with a young team, especially in my group, being really the only guy besides [McPhee] who just signed back,” Bowser, 25, said during a virtual news conference Monday. “To be able to lead that group, lead this defense and also lead this team to where we want to be, and that’s to win a Super Bowl.”

Bowser, who agreed to a new deal a day before he was set to officially reach free agency, said he never wanted to leave Baltimore. He was comfortable with the scheme, in which he’s asked to drop into zone coverage almost as often as some inside linebackers, and he appreciated the team culture, the “family atmosphere” that he couldn’t bear to leave.

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With Judon signing with the New England Patriots, Yannick Ngakoue with the Las Vegas Raiders, and Jihad Ward with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Ravens couldn’t really afford to let Bowser go, either. He had just two sacks last season — but also a career-high 22 pressures, according to Pro-Football-Reference, along with three interceptions.

Bowser expects a bigger role in 2021, and a bigger impact. He knows that starts with his pass rush. He averaged 33.8 defensive snaps over 16 games last season, but just under half (16.7) were pass-rush snaps, a function of the Ravens’ depth and his versatility. There have been flashes of the Bowser who averaged more than a sack per game as a senior at Houston — he had five sacks in a reserve role in 2019 — but not enough.

“It’s just getting to the quarterback. I don’t know what else to say more than that,” Bowser said. “I showed that I can drop in coverage, catch the ball, and I was able to get two sacks at the beginning of the year [last season], but after that, I was kind of dry. I was able to get to the quarterback — pressures, things like that — but what actually goes in the stat book is getting that quarterback on the ground while he has the ball. So I feel like it’s just as simple as that: Get to the quarterback and sack him.”

Bowser has had good role models, from Suggs to Judon. He even cited retired safety Eric Weddle. They can’t teach him how to throw a quarterback to the ground or read his eyes in coverage. Bowser has to figure out how to do that on his own. But they’ve shown him along the way what it takes to play defense in Baltimore. Now his hope is that he can be better than them.

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“I work my tail off each and every day to work to be in this position, and that’s to be a leader on this field, leader to the guy in the locker room and just trying to be a good influence overall, not only for the organization but just for my family, for other people, for the city of Baltimore, for the city of Tyler [his Texas hometown], just try to be a leader, try to be an influence to the younger generation in any type of way,” Bowser said.

“I’ve been able to pick up little things, little details that they do, that they say, how they communicate with people, how they engage with people on the field and just people outside of the game. And I definitely take that into consideration of how I want to go about myself in these next couple of years, so I’m looking forward to that challenge. And like I said, I worked hard for it, so I’m looking forward to it.”

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