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Ihedigbo Packing a Punch, Defining His Role


Safety James Ihedigbo has been getting opportunities to show his stuff, having played on special teams since being activated from the practice squad before the Jets played the Buffalo Bills three weeks ago.

"Exciting," Ihedigbo said of his game experiences so far. "It can be overwhelming at times being on the field with the lights and everything, but you've just got to enjoy it. I understand that I'm here for a reason, to help this team win and try to contribute the best I can. That's what I'm trying to go out and do."

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And what kind of characteristics does Ihedigbo feel his style of play brings to the Jets?

"Very aggressive, hands-on, trying to play fast, trying to play physical, trying to dominate while I'm out there," he said.

That's just how Ihedigbo played a little more than a week ago, delivering a big hit on Patriots safety Ray Ventrone on the game's opening kickoff return.

"I knew my role on special teams is to try to help our team win. It was just me going out and playing the way that I felt I was capable of playing," said Ihedigbo.

He and Ventrone spent time together in the Jets' 2007 training camp before Ihedigbo was placed on IR. Unfortunately, Ventrone sustained a concussion on the play in the Thursday night game, but got up under his own power and participated in Patriots practices this week after sitting out on Monday.

Ihedigbo has a history of taking advantage of his opportunities, seeing success as a walk-on at UMass and being signed by the Jets as an rookie free agent. It's a trend he hopes to continue with his current "teams" assignments.

"It's a learning experience as you go on, so I kind of lean on the veterans that are out there with me," he said. "D-Bo [David Bowens], Cody Spencer — all these guys that have been playing special teams for a while and playing defense, kind of leaning on their insight in terms of helping me become a better player."

The second-year player is embracing head coach Eric Mangini's approach of continually focusing on weaknesses as he works to contribute to the Jets in more ways.

"Just continuing to learn our schemes – what we try to do, show the coaches that I'm ready to contribute whenever they need me to, wherever it may be," he said. "Every week it's a process of moving forward and trying to find things to get better at."

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