For the first time in 17 years, the Ravens are looking for a new starting middle linebacker.
A handful of players are vying for the two open inside linebacker spots during training camp, but it's clear where defensive leader Terrell Suggs stands on the matter.
"Ravens Nation make sure ya'll follow our new starting Mike linebacker Josh Bynes] @bynestime56,” [Suggs wrote on Twitter last week. "This kid is the truth!!!!!!"
Suggs has a knack for pointing out up-and-coming talent. He* *was driving the Joe Flacco bandwagon long before the Super Bowl MVP and $120 million contract, and he started singing Dennis Pitta's praises before the tight end's breakout 2012 season.
Now he's pointing to Bynes as the Ravens' next man in the middle.
"It's great support," Bynes said about Suggs' tweet. "I know that [Suggs] and Haloti [Ngata] trust me out there on the field to give them the call and make things happen."
The second-year linebacker has been running with the first-team defense and is off to a strong start in training camp. He's able to come up and make stops in the run game, but also has the speed to cover tight ends over the middle of the field.
He knew he would have more of an opportunity to get playing time this year after Ray Lewis retired, Dannell Ellerbe went to Miami and Jameel McClain still recovering from a neck injury. The inside linebacker spot was wide open coming into training camp and he has his eyes on a starting job.
"Of course I want to be the starter," Bynes said. "You don't go into this game looking to be a backup. Nobody does. You want to be the starter, you want to be the guy when they call on you that you can step on that field and make plays on Sunday. That's what I'm looking forward to."
Bynes has been taking first-team reps along with Albert McClellan and Daryl Smith. Rookie Arthur Brown is also in the mix and competing for playing time.
Smith, a 10-year veteran, has the most experience of the group as he's the Jacksonville Jaguars all-time leading tackler. McClellan has played inside and outside linebacker for the Ravens the last three seasons, and he was a starting outside back last season.
Bynes has experience of his own. He started three games last season after getting called up from the practice squad. In those games, Bynes would relay the calls from to the sidelines to the defense and was thrust into a critical position stepping in for the injured Lewis, Ellerbe and McClain.
"I've been in game situations before. I played last year, and that just helps me going forward because I've been in there," Bynes said. "I had to do that for them last year when I stepped in. Obviously my teammates' confidence in me helps. Last year they had to have confidence in me or else they wouldn't have put me out there on the field."
Bynes never showed that he was fazed by the big stage, and he finished last season with 31 tackles and two passes defended. He also made the final tackle in the Super Bowl, bringing down 49ers kick returner Ted Ginn on the last kick return to seal the game for the Ravens.
"When I'm out there, I've always thought that I'm the starter, I'm the guy, that's my defense," he said. "That's how I've always been since I've been here, and I've said that a million times."
As Bynes goes through training camp this summer, his focus is to avoid getting caught up in the pressure of trying to earn a starting job. As an undrafted player, Bynes has been fighting for his spot the last three seasons, and that is no different this year.
"I'm just going to go out there and do what I'm supposed to do," he said. "There is definitely going to be an opportunity for me to start. I just have to take advantage of it and do what I'm supposed to do as part of this defense."