Josh Bynes is used to getting overlooked.
The inside linebacker was undrafted in 2011 after a standout career for the national champion Auburn Tigers, then he earned his spot on the roster by working his way up from the practice squad. Bynes went from a long-shot prospect to the Ravens starting middle linebacker in 2012 when future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis was sidelined, and he has continued to prove himself as a reliable player over the last three years.
Now Bynes once again has to show he belongs, as the Ravens have a crowded group of inside linebackers with Daryl Smith, C.J. Mosley and Arthur Brown in the mix.
"When you're an undrafted guy, each and every year you have to prove the reason why you're here, and prove that you should have been drafted," Bynes said.
"Each and every year is going to be an obstacle. Last year they drafted Arthur Brown in the second round and this year they drafted C.J. [Mosley] in the first round. It's always going to be a challenge when you're an undrafted guy to prove that you're able to play at another level, just like them."
Bynes is somewhat of the forgotten man in the middle of the defense. He's surrounded by high draft picks and a proven veteran, as Smith was signed to a four-year contract extension this offseason and Mosley was the team's highest draft pick in eight years.
Smith and Mosley are the favorites to come out of training camp as the starting inside linebackers, but Bynes still has his eyes on a key role.
"Basically what I expect is definitely to be a starter," Bynes said. "I'm definitely a guy that can be a starter. Even if I'm not a starter, [I want to be] someone that can rotate and a guy that can contribute on this team as much as I know I can. And the coaches know that I can as well. I want to continue to prove that there's a reason why I'm here and there's a reason why I've been here four years."
Bynes started the first six games at the weak-side linebacker spot last season while Jameel McClain was on the physically unable to perform list. McClain reclaimed the starting job when he returned to the lineup, and then Bynes spent the rest of the season primarily as a reserve.
Bynes finished last season with 41 tackles and three passes defensed.
"There's a reason why I'm here, and I'm going on my fourth year in this organization," Bynes said. "It's just proving that you belong here. It's proving that you should have been drafted. And also it's proving that you can play in this league long enough, and also start and contribute in each and every way possible."
Bynes worked with the first-team defense for some of the offseason – specifically when Smith was not at the voluntary practices – and training camp later this month will be a key chance for him to once again prove that he's deserving of an important role.
"When we get to training camp and put those pads on, it's going to show who the true guys are," Bynes said. "Competition is going to be sky high when we get those pads on."