Steve Gregory has broken thumb

New England Patriots safety Steve Gregory has a broken thumb and is expected to miss a few weeks, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Gregory has appeared in 21 games -- including 19 starts -- over parts of two seasons with the Patriots.

The 30-year-old Gregory was signed as a free agent during the 2012 offseason and has become a steady member of New England's secondary. Due to an injury to linebacker Jerod Mayo, Gregory served as the on-field communicator for the defense the past two games.

Gregory has 52 tackles and two passes defensed through nine games. He has proved to be a pivotal member of New England's run defense as well, assisting as an in-the-box player at times.

The Patriots likely will turn to rookie safety Duron Harmon to step up. Harmon, who filled in for Gregory during Sunday's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, has an interception in each of his past two games.

New England (7-2) is in first place in the AFC East despite being ravaged by injuries to its defense this season.

The Patriots already have placed Mayo (pectoral), Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork (Achilles) and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly (knee) on season-ending injured reserve. New England also has been without top cornerback Aqib Talib (hip) for the past three games.

The Patriots' next game is against the Carolina Panthers (5-3) in Week 11 on "Monday Night Football."