James Ihedigbo back with Patriots

Updated: June 22, 2012, 5:50 PM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

The New England Patriots announced the re-signing of safety James Ihedigbo on Friday.

Ihedigbo, entering his sixth NFL season, played a surprisingly high total of defensive snaps last season for the Patriots (67 percent). He initially was signed on Aug. 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 Ihedigbo, who made the opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum transition from Rex Ryan's New York Jets to Bill Belichick's Patriots, was lauded by the New England coach for his smarts during the 2011 season.

Ihedigbo, who played at UMass, started 12 of 16 regular-season games and all three postseason games in 2011. He finished the season with a career-high 72 tackles, one pass defensed and four special teams tackles. He added 20 tackles and one sack in the postseason.

The Patriots' coaching staff sometimes would take Ihedigbo (6 feet 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 No. 44 jersey to another player, which was a sign that his return was likely.

Ihedigbo joins a safety group 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 and rookie Nate Ebner are also reserves.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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