Josh Bynes has been other places, but the best fit has always been Baltimore. In his third tour with the Ravens, Bynes has come to the rescue again.
Making his first start of the year in Sunday's 34-6 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, Bynes showed why the Ravens keep his telephone number on speed dial. He took over at middle linebacker and tied for the team lead with six tackles. He took pressure off second-year linebacker Patrick Queen, allowing him to move to weakside linebacker, where he could play with more freedom and less responsibility.
Bynes is 32 years old, but he moved like he was 22 on Sunday.
"I appreciate 'Harbs' [Head Coach John Harbaugh] and the organization [for] bringing me back for the third time or whatever now," Bynes said. "I appreciate it so much. I love this place. My heart is through-and-through purple."
According to Pro Football Focus, Bynes was the Ravens' second-highest graded defensive player behind safety DeShon Elliott, who also had a terrific game.
This is what happens when Bynes comes to Baltimore. The combination clicks. He was released by the Carolina Panthers during final roster cuts and the Ravens signed him to the practice squad, knowing his experience at inside linebacker would be valuable after L.J. Fort suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Bynes has gone from the practice squad, to the 53-man roster, to the starting lineup, to leading the linebackers in snaps played (43) on Sunday. It's similar to 2019, when the Ravens were 2-2, signed Bynes as a free agent and won 12 straight games. Bynes is back, and the Ravens are better for it.
"His story is just incredible," Harbaugh said. "We've had some young linebackers in here ever since C.J. [Mosley] left. There's a process going on there. We've had to be bailed out a couple times, quite honestly, [by] Josh and L.J., and then Josh again. So, we're very grateful that those guys were here. I thought Josh did a really nice job with just calming things down."
After the Ravens gave up a season-high 513 yards in Week 5 against the Indianapolis Colts, changes needed to be made. Queen and second-year linebacker Malik Harrison were both having troubles with pass coverage and weren't reacting quickly enough against the run. Queen was missing too many open-field tackles.
The decision to insert Bynes into the starting lineup paid immediate dividends Sunday. The Chargers were held to just 26 yards rushing and Bynes had plenty to do with it, reading plays quickly and flying to the ballcarrier.
"Me being out there with P.Q. [Queen], it was just great," Bynes said. "I love this game, and I love being a guy being accounted for out there on the field for my guys."
Bynes knows the Ravens' defensive system like it's his living room, and he has a knack for being in the right place. An undrafted player in 2011, Bynes made Baltimore's roster and was with the team for three seasons as a key member of the defense. His signature moment was making the final tackle in Baltimore's Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers in his second season. He signed as a free agent with the Detroit Lions in 2014, and has also played with the Arizona Cardinals (2017-18) and Cincinnati Bengals (2020).
However, Bynes' impact has always been biggest with Baltimore. Once again, his presence Sunday brought a calming presence to the defense.