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Josh Bynes Retires a Raven, Another Great Undrafted Linebacker

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Josh Bynes was still in his suit and tie after a job interview to be an academic counselor at an online university. He was walking into his parents' house in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. when his phone rang.

It was Ozzie Newsome.

You want to be a Raven again? You been working out?

Yes and yes.

That was the moment when Bynes was back in the NFL. Twelve seasons later, Bynes announced Friday that he's retiring as a Raven.

Bynes will be the Ravens' Legend of the Game Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium when the Ravens take on the Los Angels Rams, part of a celebration of an impressive career that puts him among the long list of great Ravens undrafted inside linebackers.

Bynes played from 2011-2022 and had success at every stop along the way. Though he also played for the Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, and Cincinnati Bengals, Bynes and the Ravens were never apart for long. He spent six seasons with the Ravens in three separate stints: 2011-2013, 2019, 2021-2022.

"The Ravens have been home," Bynes said this week. "The way they treat me, my family, there's no place like it."

Bynes helped lead Auburn to a national championship in college, but there were plenty of people who didn't think he would make it in the NFL, let alone have a 12-year career.

Bynes finished his career with 138 games played, including 82 starts. He was not only a tackling machine, but also one of the most knowledgeable players on the field and a highly respected leader. Bynes was a professional who played the game the right way, and that's why he played it for so long.

"The thing I'm most proud of is perseverance," Bynes said. "I've been released, cut. I've been told I wasn't good enough, not fast enough to play in the league, wouldn't be in the league long at all even if I had the opportunity to play.

"I can show my peers that regardless of what anybody says, you can do anything. You just go out there and prove it every single day. I feel like I proved that for my entire 12 years."

The Ravens gave Bynes his first opportunity, signing him as an undrafted rookie in 2011. But he didn't make the team coming out of his first training camp. Bynes had numerous tryouts elsewhere but didn't stick at any.

Newsome called Bynes back midway through the 2011 season and he made his debut in a Thanksgiving win over the San Francisco 49ers when Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe were injured. During training camp the following year, as he was trying to prove himself in the league, Bynes suffered a cracked vertebrae. He still returned from that later that season to step in for an injured Lewis during the Ravens' run to Super Bowl XLVII. In his first career start, Bynes made 13 tackles against the Denver Broncos after spending time at Ed Reed's house studying tape.

Bynes credited much of his early growth to the lessons he took from Reed in studying and learning the game, and from the mentorship of veteran undrafted inside linebackers such as Dannell Ellerbe, Albert McClellan and Jameel McClain.

"I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be sitting in Ed Reed's living room," said Bynes, who grew up idolizing Reed back from his Miami days. "Those guys helped me and tried to get me to understand how the game was played and how to be a pro. That was huge for me."

"Josh is a true Raven," McClain said. "He's a smart and gritty player that has had to work for everything in his life, and another great story in Baltimore's long history of successful undrafted players."

That 2012 season was special for Bynes from start to literal finish. In Super Bowl XLVII, Bynes made the final tackle to seal the Ravens' win, taking down 49ers returner Ted Ginn Jr. after a free kick in the closing seconds. Bynes stood up and screamed in triumph, and it will always be the signature play of his career.

"I wrapped him up and my only thought was, 'I'm not letting this dude go,'" Bynes said.

In 2014, the Lions signed Bynes off the Ravens' practice squad and he made a strong impression, earning a two-year extension after that season. Bynes then bounced to Arizona for another two years, where he had one of his best campaigns in 2018.

The Ravens brought him back midway through the 2019 season and in his first game back, in Pittsburgh, he grabbed an interception. He was a starter for much of the rest of that season, helping to stabilize a young inside linebacker corps in a magical 14-2 season.

"That year was just insane, seeing Lamar win the MVP. We were just on a roll," Bynes said. "That was huge because I thought my career might be over then, but that propelled me to play a couple more years."

The rival Bengals signed Bynes the following offseason and he started all 16 games and posted a career-high 99 tackles. The Carolina Panthers picked him up the following summer, but released him after three weeks, and the Ravens signed him the next day.

Bynes started 12 games that year and opened the 2022 season as a starter next to Patrick Queen until Baltimore traded for Roquan Smith midway through the year. Bynes' last game played was in a 23-20 win at M&T Bank Stadium against the Cleveland Browns.

"He was a good guy all around," Queen said. "Smart as hell. Just a great teammate, always looking out, always thinking about things bigger than football, keeping my head level, making sure I was straight in every situation of life – financially, relationships, stuff in the building. He was always there, always a big brother to me. I love the dude."

Bynes, 34, now lives in the Atlanta area and is in "dad mode" with his three boys – Josh Jr. (13), Jase (8), and Jordy (3). He's coaching their football and baseball teams and has enjoyed a summer and fall without football for the first time since he started playing football at 7 years old.

Bynes isn't done with the sport, however. He keeps in touch with some Ravens coaches and players.

"I miss it. That place was amazing," Bynes said. "Coaching has always been something I've been very interested in. We'll see what happens sometime soon."

The Ravens' lineage of undrafted inside linebackers is long. Now Bynes has been added to the franchise history books.

"What stands out to me is what an achiever Josh Bynes has been," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I think he is an example that when you work hard, and do the right things, and treat people right, and show up every day and do your best, a lot of great things can happen and you can surpass expectations. He's become a legendary player in our organization because he came back so many times."

Linebacker Josh Bynes played six of his 12 NFL seasons in Baltimore.

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