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Versatile Gregory ready to add to secondary

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff  April 19, 2012 12:58 PM

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FOXBOROUGH -- He's played both safety sports, some nickel back, and spent four years playing corner at Syracuse.

"So I can play them all," Steve Gregory said.

The Patriots signed the 29-year-old defensive back in March to a three-year deal worth between $2 million and $3 million dollars, a step in addressing the team's patchwork secondary from last season.

Brooklyn-born, Gregory spent six seasons in San Diego and said he's happy to head back east.

"I’m an East Coast guy, went to Syracuse University...all my family, my wife’s family is out here," he said, artfully dodging questions about the Jets (his friends had season tickets but he was more a fan of players than teams) and Yankees (he's not into baseball). "It’s close to home. So I was excited to have the opportunity to be back this way."

Last year he recorded 67 tackles (the second highest total of his career) and returned his only interception of the season for a 26-yard touchdown. It was a strong year, especially after a 2010 campaign during which he sat out four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances, but he didn't see it as a bounce back year necessarily.

"Last year was good for me," he said. "I got to start 13 games, gave me some more experience. The more experience you have in this league, the better you’re going to be. Every game you play, every snap you take, every rep you take only makes you better. Last year definitely made me better as a football player.

He's a player after Bill Belichick's own heart, climbing the ladder through special teams before eventually earning a starter's job. He said he expects to contribute on the Patriots special teams but will approach the offseason as if he's hunting for a spot as a starter in the secondary.

"Special teams, that’s the way I made my way in this league," he said. "Came in undrafted and really worked hard to earn my way onto a roster. I did that in San Diego by playing hard on special teams. I played all four and did that for my first two years up until I started to earn time on defense. Special teams is a huge part of the game and I look forward to contributing and playing on special teams as well.

"You strive yourself to be a starter, and you approach it that way. So I’ll approach practice, I’ll approach the offseason, I’ll approach everything to prepare myself to be a starter. I think that’s the only way you can go about it. I think every player should go about it that way and then the competition on the field, we’ll let it stand where it stands."

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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