TAMPA — For the first month after his injury, Quincy Black lay flat on his stomach on a massage table, his eyes staring at the floor through a face cradle. His only nutrition came via a straw. The Bucs linebacker had no feeling in his left arm or much use of his left hand.
At 6 feet 2, 240 pounds, Black's body is a mountain range of muscle, a terrain of thick shoulders, rolling biceps and flat abs. But the left side of his upper body was essentially paralyzed by a helmet-to-helmet collision with Chargers running back Ryan Mathews on Nov. 11 at Raymond James Stadium.
Black had nerve graft surgery in February that doctors hope will restore full use of his arm. But because he plans to take the year off from football, Tampa Bay released Black on Thursday.
"On that table is where he had to sleep and eat," Black's agent, Harold Lewis, said. "And the pain was excruciating. It was such a scare to him and me. I love this kid. I said, "If it were up to me, I would tell you to never play this game again.' "
Black, 29, was scheduled to earn $5.5 million in base salary but is eligible for $1.05 million in injury protection under the collective bargaining agreement. If he can't resume his career, he will collect another $500,000 in 2014.
"According to doctors, he has a 50-50 chance of playing football again," Lewis said. "Financially, he'll be okay. But Quincy wants to play football again.
"If anyone can beat the odds, it'll be Quincy."
The Bucs might have already found his replacement, signing Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas to a one-year contact late Wednesday.
On Thursday, the third day of free agency, they also announced other moves.
The Bucs might have secured a slot receiver in Kevin Ogletree, who caught a career-high 32 passes for 436 yards and four touchdowns last season for the Cowboys.
The 25-year-old enjoyed his best day as a pro against the Giants in Week 1, catching eight passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. He will be reunited with Bucs receivers coach John Garrett, who served as Cowboys tight ends coach and passing game coordinator.
The Bucs also signed exclusive-rights free agent defensive tackle Corvey Irvin and tendered restricted free agent defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.
Black's release was not unexpected. A third-round pick from New Mexico in 2007, Black recorded 283 career tackles, 3½ sacks and three interceptions.
Lewis said Black plans to stay busy during his year off, including pursuing a master's degree at the University of Tampa.
"I certainly hope for him to have a fast and full recovery," Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. "Quincy is a special person, and I know he will work as hard as he can through this rehab."
Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected]