The New England Patriots final practice of the week will come tomorrow and will confirm Steve Gregory’s status for Monday night’s huge matchup against the Carolina Panthers, but I definitely wouldn’t expect Gregory to be out there on Monday. As a matter of fact, I would be downright shocked if Gregory plays, because he is just two weeks removed from a broken thumb. Even though he had a bye week to rest and will have a little bit more extra time to rest since it’s a Monday-nighter, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported shortly after the Pittsburgh Steelers game that Gregory would likely miss a few weeks.
That didn’t stop some rumblings emerge that Gregory could return against the Panthers, but it would be almost impossible to envision Gregory escaping any missed games. He’s an important piece to the defense at strong safety (I don’t know how much anyone trusts rookie Duron Harmon as a starter) due to his much-improved play (honestly, he’s one of the most improved players in the NFL this year), but the Patriots aren’t going to be rushing him back. Gregory isn’t practicing today either, and I don’t anticipate him practicing tomorrow- let alone playing in this week’s game.
The Patriots will get an even more important member of the secondary back this week in Aqib Talib, and the addition will come in the nick of time for the Pats. The Patriots will try to take top Panthers wideout Steve Smith out of the game, and Talib could do that just by shadowing Talib. Keep in mind, though, that Smith is also a very physical player, and he’s not easy for defensive backs to shadow due to his style of play. But if anyone can shut down Smith one-on-one, Talib can (Richard Sherman couldn’t in Week 1, which I found to be extremely interesting).
Talib practiced yesterday, and he also practiced today. According to WEEI’s Mike Petraglia, Talib still considers himself “day-to-day”, but I would be shocked if Talib is ruled inactive. He seems to be somewhere near close strength, and the Patriots will definitely want their No. 1 CB in a game as big as this one, especially going up against Smitty.