Ihedigbo living 'childhood dream' as Patriot

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Ihedigbo living 'childhood dream' as Patriot

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti

FOXBORO -- James Ihedigbo hopes Patriots fans welcome him, a former Jet, with open arms.

Here, he's home and he couldn't be happier.

"It's exciting," Ihedigbo said after Saturday's practice, his first with New England.

"It's a childhood dream to come back and play for the same team you grew up watching. I'm just excited for the opportunity. ...I was born and raised a Pats fan. I watched the 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."

Of course, his days in New England at Amherset Regional High School and UMass give him no advantage at Gillette; he's on foreign ground as much as, say, new Patriot Shaun Ellis. The fact the two played together with the Jets -- that there's a familiar face already under Belichick's reign -- is comforting to Ihedigbo.

"He's a great guy, great teammate," Ihedigbo said of Ellis. "Kind of mentor for me at the old place I was playing at, and he's been the same way here. He's a good friend."

Ihedigbo joined New York as an undrafted free agent in 2007. He had three sacks as a backup in the secondary and 27 special teams tackles last season. The Patriots will be happy for the help. Despite this weekend's return of safety James Sanders, there's little depth at the position. Behind Patrick Chung, Brandon Meriweather's consistency is suspect and Sergio Brown's is unproven.

What will New England get from Ihedigbo? Belichick gave no definitive answer.

"He's played defense, hes played safety, hes played there for the Jets he played some of the nickel and dime type responsibilities on defense, and he's been good in the kicking game. Well see what he can do."

Unsurprisingly, Ihedigbo says he's prepared to do whatever he needs to. There are certain fundamentals he has confidence about that transcend positioning.

"Wherever they need me to play, I'm just going to go out and bring my intensity, my energy," he said. "The way this game is designed to be played is to be fast and physical... being able to get off blocks, get to the ball. I want to bring whatever I can to help this team."

To give fans a better reference point for style: "I definitely model my game after Rodney Harrison," Ihedigbo said. "Physical player, knew what he was supposed to do at all times, was a leader, and played the game very physically."

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Trump wishes Kraft good luck, says Brady called to congratulate him

Trump wishes Kraft good luck, says Brady called to congratulate him

President-elect Donald Trump made sure to thank a few of his supporters from New England -- particularly those at 1 Patriot Place -- during a speech on the eve of his inauguration to the nation's highest office. 

Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady all earned shout-outs from Trump. Kraft was one of many Trump donors present for a dinner at Washington, DC's Union Station, where he was singled out by the soon-to-be-president. 

"In the audience we have somebody that's under no pressure whatsoever because he's got a great quarterback named Tom Brady and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft," Trump said. "Good luck, Bob.

"Your friend Tom Brady just called. He feels good. He called to congratulate us. He feels good. Good luck. You're going to do great."

Trump gave one extra nod to Belichick, who he says taught him to out-work his competition. 

"I out-worked everybody," Trump said. "I think I out-worked anyone who ever ran for office. I learned that from Belichick."

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have signed free-agent tight end Rob Housler to a future contract. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound target last played for the Bears but was released at the end of training camp.

Housler won't be eligible to participate with the Patriots during the postseason, but he will be available for the offseason program and training camp leading up to the 2017 campaign. 

Housler taken in the third round by the Cardinals with the 69th overall selection in 2011. In 65 career games, he has 109 catches for 1,166 yards and one touchdown. 

The Patriots may have been intrigued by Housler's skill set last summer when he caught one pass for 52 yards -- making two Patriots defenders miss in the process -- during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots and Bears held joint training camp practices in August that would have given Patriots coaches and scouts a closer look at everything Housler has to offer as a player. 

Housler was one of the better athletes at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2011, running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash (fastest among tight ends), posting a 6.9-second three-cone drill, and recording a 37-inch vertical leap.

Bill Belichick and his staff hit big on a future-contract signing two years ago when a running back with a significant injury history was available to scoop up at the behest of then-assistant to the coaching staff Michael Lombardi. Since then, the Patriots still have never lost with Dion Lewis in uniform.