TAMPA — One day after their season ended, the Bucs started looking ahead to next season, excited about the return of three key starters from injuries.
Doug Martin, who rushed for 1,454 yards as a rookie, talked about reaching 2,000, buoyed by the fact Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph (knee) and Carl Nicks (toe) will be blocking for him.
DT Gerald McCoy believes the pass rush will be better with DE Adrian Clayborn (knee) coming off the edge.
However, there is still uncertainty about LB Quincy Black. Black suffered a neck injury against the Chargers on Nov. 11, carted off the field after tackling RB Ryan Mathews.
Bucs coach Greg Schiano said at the time Black didn't suffer spinal damage and had "full function" with the exception of a problem with his left arm. Black has been seeing specialists, but there are still no answers.
"They are still not sure what they're doing medically," Schiano said. "He's been to some different places in the country, the finest people there are."
Black's agent, Harold Lewis, said the injury, which involved nerve damage, is not considered career-threatening.
"If in six months nothing has changed, then maybe there's a different answer," he said.
But Lewis said the recovery will be lengthy.
"The pain has gone down," Lewis said. "He's not in excruciating pain anymore. But the doctor says it just takes time to heal."
IN A RUSH: DE Michael Bennett had a career year at the best time considering he can become an unrestricted free agent. But Bennett, 27, who had a team-high nine sacks, hopes he'll return for his fifth season with the Bucs.
"I want to see what's going to happen when (Da'Quan) Bowers gets healthy, (Clayborn) gets healthy, just to see where we can be as a group," he said. "I want to be back because I've been here a long time and grown with the Bucs."
Bennett, playing with a right shoulder injury, didn't have a sack over the last three games. He said he'd prefer a long-term deal and he'd like to play with his brother, Giants TE Martellus Bennett, who also can be a free agent. He has a fan in McCoy, who said it "should be one of the first priorities" to re-sign Bennett.
"It'd be huge in us getting to where we want to be," he said.
WRIGHT update: CB Eric Wright packed up his locker, and the question remains if it was for the last time as a Buc.
Wright, who signed a five-year, $37.5 million deal last offseason, admittedly had an "up-and-down" year, which included a four-game suspension for what he said was a one-time use of Adderall. Wright was eligible to return Sunday and said he was healthy but was inactive. His suspension enables the Bucs to void $7.5 million in guaranteed salary for next season.
"I can't tell you what his future is … because that hasn't been determined yet," Schiano said.
Said Wright: "I'm under contract. So mentally, that's the way I'm going into the offseason."
MISCELLANY: McCoy said he got "emotional" in the locker room following Sunday's game, which marked the first time in three seasons he played all 16 games. "It's been a long journey," he said. "To a lot of people, it might not mean anything. But if you've never been through what I've been through, then you wouldn't understand." … WR Mike Williams plans to go up north to work out with former receivers coach P.J. Fleck, who recently took the head coaching job at Western Michigan.
Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.