FOXBOROUGH — He wasn’t invited to the NFL combine. He wasn’t drafted. And when the San Diego Chargers signed him as a free agent 2006, they assigned him to the practice squad.
Steve Gregory — son of a retired NYPD police officer — always embraced the role of underdog.
“When you’re a guy like me, you have to earn your way,” Gregory said. “You have to prove yourself every single training camp.”
Even this training camp.
Gregory, now a seven-year veteran, started 12 games for the Patriots last year at safety.
Yet in a position group that includes Devin McCourty, Adrian Wilson and Tavon Wilson, Gregory is seemingly on the bubble for a roster spot in 2013.
“If you look at the depth chart, maybe it seems like that,” Gregory said. “But I approach it that way every year. Every year you just fight in training camp prove that you should be there. And that’s the way it should be.”
Gregory played out of position for most of last season at strong safety. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, the Syracuse graduate is much more suited to play free safety.
But ever since McCourty switched from defensive back to free safety midway through last season, it’s been his position.
The Patriots signed four-time All-Pro Adrian Wilson, a natural strong safety, this offseason. Tavon Wilson, a promising second-year pro from the University of Illinois, plays there too.
Rookie Kanorris Davis, an undersized linebacker at Troy, is in the mix as well.
That leaves Gregory as McCourty’s backup. Or at any position the Patriots need him.
Gregory shifted between several defensive back positions in drills on Friday and Saturday at training camp.
That’s the way it’s been for Gregory his entire NFL career. He made the Chargers roster as a special teams player. Since then, he said he has played “just about any defensive position.”
“He knows it all,” Adrian Wilson said. “He knows every position. We can lean on him as well as Devin. It’s very important. It brings a lot of versatility to the group. And a lot of veteran presence as well.
Said Gregory: “We pride ourselves in being a secondary that’s interchangeable. And I am ready to play wherever the team needs me.”