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Cam Bynum Confident Entering Year 2, Expects to Compete for Starting Spot

EAGAN, Minn. – Cam Bynum is entering his second NFL season confident but also prepared to compete.

As a rookie in 2021, Bynum contributed on special teams but also was thrown into the fire as a two-game starter at safety when Harrison Smith missed time because of COVID-19 protocols.

The fourth-round draft pick ultimately started three games – including the Vikings Week 17 contest – last season and totaled 28 tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack, three passes defensed and an interception.

Minnesota did not re-sign free agent safety Xavier Woods, meaning Bynum is likely the front-runner to start opposite Smith in 2022. Considering the upcoming NFL Draft, however, as well as remaining free agents on the market, it's impossible to know exactly how the Vikings roster will shake out.

Bynum spoke to Twin Cities media members Tuesday and was asked if he expects to start.

"I expect to, just with the body of work I've put in, my preparation," he said. "Regardless, I'm coming in to compete for a spot. I don't know what the coaches have in mind. My mindset is I've got to earn it, and I expect to win whatever position I'm put in."

View the best safety photos from the 2021 season shot by Vikings photographers.

He later added: "I prepared as if I was the starter all year. Now that I have a chance to be that, my preparation isn't going to slip."

When the Vikings drafted Bynum out of Cal, they asked him to switch from cornerback to safety. He embraced the challenge but also acknowledged the steep learning curve.

"It was going to take reps, lots of frustration through the process, knowing that it's not going to be perfect from Day 1," Bynum reflected. "Being at corner for so long, it felt like I had things figured out, but [then mastering] a whole new craft, it's like, 'OK, sit back and go through these mistakes; mistakes are good. Now just don't make the same ones over and over.' "

Now having that transition and a full NFL campaign under his belt, he feels good about Year 2.

"Got a good [number] of reps during the year, was able to go in and learn behind Harry and Xavier. They taught me so much," Bynum said. "Just now being comfortable playing safety, and now take it and run with it.

"[Your] eyes are way more important [as a safety] because obviously at corner you're in man coverage, being on an island," Bynum continued. "At safety, now you're looking at everything. You're looking at the quarterback while also having to look at routes. So they just taught me how to read different parts of the field, see different parts from the quarterback and go make plays."

And Bynum has a vote of confidence from Smith, who recently refrained from making a depth chart prediction but expressed belief in the younger defensive back.

"Cam balled last year whenever he got the chance, so that's on tape," Smith said. "We know who he is as a guy. He's a smart guy, really productive player, and he's one of those guys you want to have in your room. He's a great presence, is very energetic, just a good guy to be around – so that rubs off on people, as well."

Bynum and Smith both will be learning under a new Vikings coaching staff this season.

It's already been communicated by Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell that Minnesota will use multiple fronts defensively but likely operate from a 3-4 base system.

Bynum isn't intimidated by the prospect of learning a new defense, though. He said there's "no stress" as far as playbook is concerned.

"Last year it was the stress of trying to learn a new defense and a new position at once," Bynum noted. "Now I at least know how to play safety, so learning a new defense is a breeze, just because I know how to play Cover 2, know how to play Cover 3. Football is football at the end of the day, so if you know how to play certain components of a certain coverage, you're going to know how to do it with whoever is coaching you.

"We will be a lot more visual … as safeties [in this defense], so a lot more plays to be made. But still at the end of the day, Cover 2, Cover 3, man coverage, Cover 4, it's the same – football is football," he reiterated.

Bynum further explained that the idea of being "more visual" as a safety in Donatell's system, which could create more opportunities for takeaways.

"The way we play, like in our Cover-4 for example, sometimes may be a lot less of a [matchup]. It might be more visual on the quarterback, where you don't have to carry a guy so far across the field, because the backside safety might be able to see him coming and be able to pick it up, so now I can rob a different route," Bynum said. "I think everywhere across the board, you might not have to carry a route as far. Sometimes, you'll be able to rob different routes.

"You see the ball come out, and you can go make a play," he added.

At just 23 years old, Bynum has an easiness about him that aided in making the jump from college ball to the next level. He admitted being surprised that he didn't experience a "starstruck" moment last season – he was reminded, though, that every player he faces in the NFL poses a challenge.

"Everybody's good. Even if you don't know their name, they're still good. If you know their name, they're obviously good," Bynum said with a smile. "You have to be on your 'A' game every play.

"I'm trying to be the best ever. That's the biggest thing. That's why I play the game. That's why I put in extra time," he later added. "I'm not just trying to be here and make money. I'm trying to be the best football player … That's what drives me every day."