Steve Gregory has handed the New England Patriots another injury headache, after suffering a broken thumb in Sunday's 55-31 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers, reports

The 30-year-old safety joins linebacker Jerod Mayo and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork on the treatment table, but could return to action for the clash against the high-flying Carolina Panthers on November 18.

Gregory joined the Patriots as a free agent in the 2012 offseason, and has established himself as an important member of head coach Bill Belichick's roster, making 52 tackles and two passes defensed through nine games.

He has appeared in 21 games - including 19 starts - over parts of two seasons with the Boston-based franchise, and will be sorely missed if he is unable to return to action early with a cast nestling the thumb.

Gregory's absence could pave way for rookie Duron Harmon, who has played just 125 snaps so far this season.

The Patriots will be hoping Gregory makes an early comeback, as they look to maintain their place at the top of AFC East (7-2), despite injuries ravaging Belichick's defence.

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