Happy To Be In New England

Ihedigbo played for UMass (Getty)

Local boy gets chance to play for his hometown team on Saturday night against the Lions.

The Patriots signed veteran safety James Ihedigbo last week (8/19) to help shore up a position that had become dangerously thin for New England. After working out veteran safeties Darren Sharper and Renaldo Hill, the team chose instead to sign Ihedigbo, who was available as a free agent after the Jets decided not to re-sign him.

   "He's played safety for the Jets and some nickel and dime with responsibilities on defense and he's been good in the kicking game. We'll see what he can do," head coach Bill Belichick said of Ihedigbo after Saturday's hour-long walkthrough session.

   "Wherever they need me to play. I'm just going to go out and bring my intensity, my energy, and the way this game is designed to be played, fast and physical, to this defense," Ihedigbo told reporters after his first workout with his new team.

   It's truly a homecoming for Ihedigbo, the 27-year-old Northampton, Mass. native and former UMass product. He entered the league in 2007 as an undrafted rookie free agent with New York. Ihedigbo has totaled just 11 defensive tackles in 37 NFL regular-season games, plus 25 special teams stops.

   "I'm excited to be a Patriot, excited about the opportunity that Coach (Bill) Belichick and owner (Robert) Kraft have given me," he continued. "Whatever I can do to help us be successful and win.

   "It's a childhood dream to come back and play for the same team you grew up watching."

   At 6-feet-1, 214 pounds, it's no surprise which former Patriot this safety emulated as a boy.

   "Definitely, I tried to model my game after Rodney Harrison, a physical player who knew what he was supposed to do at all times. A leader.

   "Born and raised a Pats fan," he added. "Went to games when I was in high school at the old Foxboro Stadium and said, 'One day I'm going to be playing here.' Lo and behold, here I am."

Patriots Insider Take:  (Jon Scott) @jscottNFL
Ihedigbo needs to have a strong showing over the final two preseason games to secure a role with the Patriots.  James Sanders, Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather are the team's top defenders with Sergio Brown and Kyle Arrington both finding playing time in the defensive backfield.  Meriweather may be in the most precarious spot. The former first round pick has failed to endear himself to the coaching staff, and has yet to prove himself worthy of his draft status despite being elected to the Pro Bowl twice.  (Meriweather was only option at one safety position in the Pro Bowl balloting.)

The newcomer may get a chance to step up his career in New England after playing in relative anonimity over a three-year career in New York as a role player. Ihedigbo appeared in 14 games for the Jets last year but did not start. He recording 22 total tackles, and three sacks.

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