Safety Steve Gregory absent again

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots starting safety Steve Gregory was absent for his third straight practice on Friday, casting doubt on his availability for Monday night's game against the Carolina Panthers.

Gregory broke his right thumb on Nov. 3 against the Steelers and was expected to miss a "few weeks" at that time, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Gregory was the lone absence at Friday's practice, as the Patriots took the field with temperatures having risen to the mid-50s after being in the 30s in recent days.

If Gregory doesn't play Monday night, it would likely thrust rookie Duron Harmon (third round, Rutgers) into the starting lineup. The Patriots would also have to determine which defender wears the communication device in his helmet, which is a role Gregory held the last two games.