- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Patriots announced the re-signing of safety James Ihedigbo today.
Ihedigbo, who enters his sixth NFL season in 2012, played a surprisingly high total of defensive snaps last season for the Patriots (67 percent). He was initially signed on August 19, 2011, well into training camp, and later emerged on defense in part because of injuries and other personnel changes such as the releases of James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather.
The 28-year-old, who made the opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum transition from Rex Ryan's Jets to Bill Belichick's Patriots, was lauded by Belichick for his smarts during the 2011 season.
Ihedigbo, who played in college at UMass, started 12 of 16 games regular season games and all three postseason games in 2011. He finished the season with a career-high 72 total tackles, one pass defensed and four special teams tackles. He added 20 tackles and one sack in the postseason.
The coaching staff would sometimes take Ihedigbo (6-1, 214 pounds) off the field in passing situations, replacing him with a defensive back with more range. He spent the early parts of this offseason reportedly recovering from shoulder surgery, although the Patriots never issued his jersey No. 44 to another player, which was a sign that his return was still in the cards.
Ihedigbo joins a safety group that is headlined by Patrick Chung, free-agent signee Steve Gregory and second-round draft choice Tavon Wilson. Veterans Josh Barrett and Will Allen also took snaps there in offseason workouts, while third-year player Sergio Brown, Ross Ventrone and rookie Nate Ebner are also reserves.