Gregory back at Pats practice in cast

Gregory back at Pats practice in cast
November 20, 2013, 10:45 pm
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FOXBORO – The scar running down Steve Gregory’s right thumb looks like a miniature four-inch railroad track. It runs right over the knuckle where the thumb connects to the hand. Looks painful.

Wednesday, Gregory was back at Patriots practice working with a cast on the hand and testing it out in advance of Sunday’s game with the Broncos.

“It’s on a day-to-day type of thing right now,” Gregory explained Wednesday afternoon. “It’s just good to be back out at practice, running around and doing some of those things. I’ll talk more with the doctors and the medical staff and we’ll move forward in whatever way we can.”

Gregory, whose play improved tremendously this season after an uneven 2012, injured the thumb against the Steelers before the Patriots bye week. He didn’t play Monday against Carolina but – if he can play capably with the hand in a cast – he should be on the field Sunday.

The Patriots will need Gregory for both his play and his communication skills in the secondary. Denver’s offense is intricate and all its weapons are utilized so New England will be constantly stressed in coverage. Gregory was the green-dot guy against the Steelers, a signal of just how much the coaching staff trusts the safety to get the defense lined up.

Part of the challenge against Denver is, of course, locating Wes Welker, who leads the Broncos with 61 catches and nine touchdown receptions.

“Wes is definitely one of the best slot receivers to come through this game,” said Gregory. “He’s a great football player, he was a great teammate and somebody we’ll have to prepare hard for along with all the other guys on that side of the ball that can really get it done. We’ll have to bring our A game to understand how they’re trying to attack us and get things done.”

Welker’s probably going to end up with his lowest catch total since 2010 when he came back quickly from a blown ACL and had 86 receptions. But his touchdown total is up and many of those receiving touchdowns have been on plays he was left wholly uncovered. He’s still a slot “more than 90 percent of the time’ according to Bill Belichick, but Peyton Manning doesn’t hit the slot as often as Tom Brady.

Gregory said Welker is “pretty much doing a little bit of everything. He can run the short routes, the deep routes, he’s a well-rounded wide receiver and that goes for the guys across the board for them, including the tight end [Julius] Thomas and the backs.”

There’s question whether Welker will be on the field Sunday thanks to a concussion sustained against the Chiefs on Sunday. If he’s good to go, the Patriots will be hoping Gregory is too because New England needs all defensive hands on deck. Even if one of those hands is in a cast.