INDIANAPOLIS — Quincy Black's career with the Bucs might be close to the end.
The linebacker, who lost some movement and strength in his left arm after a helmet-to-helmet collision with Chargers RB Ryan Mathews on Nov. 11, had nerve graft surgery at the end of January and needs several months to determine if it was successful, Bucs GM Mark Dominik said Thursday.
Black is set to earn $5.5 million in base salary for 2013. The Bucs have no way of determining when — or if — he might be able to play again.
If Black does not recover in time to play next season, he would be eligible for injury protection worth as much as $1 million. An additional $500,000 in injury protection would be available if the nerve damage is career-ending.
"This is a unique surgery, and it's going to take time to figure out if it was successful," Dominik said at the NFL's scouting combine.
"You generally like to walk out of any surgery and say that was a successful surgery. But the reality is that because of the nerve damage and the nerve grafting and everything, you won't know if it's successful or not for several months. It's a tough injury and a unique injury."
Black, 28, was a third-round pick from New Mexico in 2007. He has played in 81 games with 3½ sacks, three interceptions, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
If Black cannot play next season, the Bucs will need a new strongside linebacker. Veteran Adam Hayward filled in for the final seven games. The team also has Jacob Cutrera, who has primarily played on special teams, and Najee Goode, who appeared in three games as a rookie last season.
Barber waits: It's hard to know if all of the sand has run out of the hourglass for FS Ronde Barber, who is deciding whether to play a 17th season. But the Bucs aren't in a hurry to discuss his future.
Coach Greg Schiano said there has been no attempt to have a dialogue with Barber, who turns 38 on April 7 and has no contract for 2014. (Dominik said he plans to talk to Barber before free agency starts March 12.)
Schiano wants Barber to have sufficient time to heal from the bumps and bruises of an NFL season before making a decision. And the Bucs are evaluating their options in the draft and free agency to determine what — if any — role they would have to offer Barber next season.
"We evaluated everybody. We're trying to figure out where we're going," Schiano said. "He's trying to figure it out. I want to give him enough time to where the soreness is gone. He needs to get away and (say), 'Now, what do I really want to do?' Let's not make decisions based on, 'My ankle still hurts.' When you get to the stage of the career where he is, things just take a little longer to get better. They heal a little slower. Once he starts feeling good again, he can make a decision.
"There's plenty of opportunity for us to make the right decision. We don't have to … rush just so you can check off the box. Let things unfold because sometimes decisions have a way of working themselves out."
Ever More waiting: Schiano said he spoke with DE Da'Quan Bowers after his arrest on gun charges at New York's LaGuardia Airport. "I think we're doing exactly the right thing. We've just got to let it unfold," Schiano said. "I think you'd be naive to say it doesn't have any impact. I just want to let it run its course. We have plenty of time."
Etc: Schiano said he will be part of the Bucs contingent that interviews Notre Dame's Manti Te'o when interviews of linebackers start today. … Dominik is scheduled to meet today with Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for DE Michael Bennett. Bennett is unsigned for 2013.