FOXBOROUGH — At training camp, James Ihedigbo is one of the few Patriots wearing a red jersey.
The bright signifier doesn’t mean he’s special. It just means he shouldn’t be touched. The four-year pro had shoulder surgery in the offseason after sustaining several stingers.
As he was recovering, he waited for word whether the Patriots would take him back.
Ihedigbo had paired up with Patrick Chung and sometimes Devin McCourty in the defensive outfield last season, marking a year in which the decimated secondary was at or near the bottom of the barrel for yards surrendered.
So as the team drafted two defensive backs, and signed three more in the offseason, he waited. He waited all the way through minicamp and through mid-June until he got the call, re-signing with the team June 22.
“It’s all a part of the business,” Ihedigbo said. “You know I’m glad to be back here, I’m glad to be back with the team. I’m glad to, you know, really get to work so we can get this thing going.”
As for the shoulder, Ihedigbo’s play suggest he’s ready to take off the red jersey. On the first day of training camp, he found himself making the first tackle of camp on running back Stevan Ridley, something he said was accidental.
“We tried to hold each other up,” he said.
Asked if he was healthy enough to shed the red jersey, he said he was doing what he was told.
“They asked me to wear a red jersey, [so] I’m doing exactly what I’m told,” Ihedigbo said. “And just moving forward in that direction.”
As the Patriots restructure last season’s 31st ranked defense, Ihedigbo is still primed to contribute. Through training camp he has worked with or next to the first-team unit. Newly signed safety Steve Gregory is getting the repetitions in the first unit next to Chung.
“You know we have a great group of guys that I like to be around,” Ihedigbo said. “We’re just going to continue working. It’s so early on in camp to see where we’re at. We just got to put our heads down and keep working. When the lights shine at the end of the tunnel, we’ll know where we’ll be.”