From Back Pain, To Backup, To Starter

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Josh Bynes calls them his "moments."

Sometimes he just sits back and thinks about his first two years in the NFL, all the obstacles he's overcome and the achievements he's had.

This time last year, Bynes was sitting on his couch, watching T.V. with ice on his back. His routine consisted of his fiancée applying ice – 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, and repeat.

Now Bynes is in the lead for the Ravens' starting WILL linebacker spot next to veteran signee Daryl Smith with Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe gone.

"It's crazy," Bynes said. "Even when I thought it was over for me in football, God made sure I understood that it was just a stepping stone. He wanted to see how I would battle."

That's what Bynes has done throughout his career, and he continues to do now in Ravens training camp.

The former undrafted rookie free agent out of Auburn has seen a lot. He was signed and cut three times by the Ravens. He bounced between the practice squad and active roster.

Last July 30, Bynes fractured three bones in his lower back just four practices into training camp and missed six games. He returned to play in every game afterwards and start three, making a career-high 31 tackles. Bynes made the final special teams tackle in Super Bowl XLVII.

Now Bynes is back, and trying to hold off rookie second-round draft pick Arthur Brown for the starting job. Right now, it's Bynes' position to lose.

He had a solid performance in the Ravens' first preseason game in Tampa Bay. Bynes was the starter inside, and recorded three tackles (one solo and two assists). He sniffed out one screen pass and took down Bucs running back Mike James for a 5-yard loss.

"I would say Josh has only gotten better," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He equated himself very well in there, as you saw. He played like a starting inside linebacker. So, he's the leader right now for that spot, and he's going to be challenged by a couple other guys strongly, but he played very well."

Bynes has bulked up to 245 pounds, but says he feels leaner and quicker inside. Asked why he feels he's in a position to start this year, he said he's simply doing his job and what the coaches ask of him.

Bynes says he doesn't feel any pressure because he's always been practicing and preparing as if he were the starter.

"Even when I was the third-team guy, fourth-team guy, I went out there like I was the guy. That was my defense and I was taking control," Bynes said.

"I'm doing everything I've done since I've been here. You just don't see those things when you start on practice squad and you've got guys like Dannell and Jameel [McClain] in front of you. It's hard because those guys are great. I looked up to those guys since I've been there."

Bynes is trying to become the next undrafted inside linebacker to make a name for himself in Baltimore. It's been done by guys such as Bart Scott, Ellerbe and McClain.

McClain has imparted a lot of wisdom on Bynes over their two years together.

"Each and every game since I've been here, he always talks to me," Bynes said. "Jameel is a very smart guy, he's a very, very inspirational person. I look up to him. He knows how it feels because he's in the same shoes I am [as an undrafted player]. He knows every time he steps on that field, it's time to eat, it's time to be hungry and time to go in there and work. That's what we're all about."

McClain would be the starter if he were healthy. But like Bynes last year, McClain's got an injured back.

With no timetable for McClain's return, Bynes is now in the position of trying to motivate McClain to get back on the field.

"I ask him every day, 'How are you feeling?' He gives me the same look I remember giving everybody else when they asked me," Bynes said. "I say, 'Bro, I know that look.' He says, 'Yeah.' I say, 'Bro, no, remember last year. These are tests in front of you. That's all it is.'"

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