2 local stars come home; James Ihedigbo (UMass), Ricky Brown (BC) sign.


Byline: Rich Garven


FOXBORO - James Ihedigbo grew up in Northampton rooting for the Patriots. Now he's playing for them.

The Patriots signed Ihedigbo, a fifth-year safety from UMass, and linebacker Ricky Brown, a sixth-year linebacker from Boston College, yesterday in an attempt to shore up positions that are thin on talent (safety) or healthy bodies (linebacker).

"I was born and raised a Pats fan," Ihedigbo said after practice, the last of training camp. "Went to 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."

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Ihedigbo spent his first four seasons in the NFL playing for the, ugh, Jets after making the team as an undrafted rookie in 2007.

He worked his way into the rotation the last couple of seasons, appearing in 29 games while collecting 41 tackles and five sacks. He was also a regular on special teams.

"Wherever they need me to play," Ihedigbo said of where he might fit in here. "I'm just going to go out and bring my intensity, my energy and the way this game is designed to be played - fast and physical - to this defense in any way I can help out."

The Patriots have worked out numerous safeties over the last month as they seek to add to a group that is led by Patrick Chung and also includes Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders and Sergio Brown.

While Ihedigbo has a good chance of sticking with the Patriots, Ricky Brown would seem to be a long shot. He's here right now because of injuries to linebackers Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher and Jermaine Cunningham.

The 6-2, 235-pound Brown spent his first five seasons in Oakland after being signed as an undrafted rookie in 2006. He has 102 tackles and no sacks in 55 games.

Ellis in first practice

Defensive lineman Shaun Ellis signed a one-year deal with the Patriots Aug. 8. The 12th-year pro joined his teammates on the practice field for the first time yesterday after coming off the active/physically unable to perform list.

"It felt good, just being on the field around teammates and moving around a little bit," said Ellis, who did a lot more watching than moving during a 75-minute walk-through conducted in helmets, shirts and shorts.

Ellis, who had offseason hip surgery, spent the last two weeks getting familiar with the playbook and getting in shape. He isn't sure if he'll play in the Patriots' next preseason game, against the Lions in Detroit Saturday, leaving...

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