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."