As relieved and encouraged as he was after visiting with Quincy Black at St. Joseph's hospital late Sunday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano had no choice on Monday but to begin preparing for the possibility he lost his starting strongside linebacker for the rest of the season.
Though Black suffered no spinal damage and was released from the hospital after absorbing a helmet-to-helmet hit while making a tackle during Sunday's victory against the San Diego Chargers, some "complications" could keep him out of the lineup indefinitely, Schiano said.
"Overall he is going to be OK, but it's a serious injury and he's having some complications with his left arm,'' Schiano said of the sixth-year linebacker from New Mexico. "There are still further tests he has to go through before we can make a definitive statement, but it's serious and how much time that means we'll just have to see.''
Schiano ruled Black out for this Sunday's game at Carolina. While he made it clear he does not believe Black's injury is career-threatening, he won't know more until doctors have a chance to review the results of tests administered to Black on Monday.
"The spine is fine,'' Schiano said. "It's the nerves and things coming off that. I don't want to say too much because I'm not exactly sure and I'd hate to misspeak, but I do know that it needs some further tests to get right to the bottom of it.''
Black went down late in the third quarter after stopping Chargers running back Ryan Matthews for a 1-yard loss, the crown of Matthews' helmet hitting the left ear hole of Black's helmet. Black was strapped to a stretcher with his head immobilized and carted off the field.
While he was being checked out by doctors on the field, Black told Schiano he was OK and he gave his teammates a thumbs-up sign with his right hand as he was being taken off on the cart. After undergoing several hours of observation and tests late Sunday, he was released.
"Quincy is feeling good and he's in good spirits, but the doctors still aren't sure what the exact injury is or what the extent of it is,'' Black's agent, Marc Lillibridge told The Tampa Tribune on Monday. "It could be a pinched nerve or something."
Once the swelling in Black's shoulder area goes down, he said, they'll know more.
Schinao, of course, has been through a similar situation before. He was the coach at Rutgers two years ago when former Scarlet Knights defensive tackle Eric LeGrand was paralyzed after making a tackle against Army.
That scenario flashed through Schiano's mind, he said, after seeing Black go down, but he began to feel better as soon as Black moved his hands. Schiano was further encouraged after visiting with Black and his doctors at the hospital on Sunday.
"He had just been through a lot of tests, but he was okay,'' Schiano said. "He's grown man and he is a mature guy, and he knows that there is something there and that it's not just a little thing, but I think he will be fine."
The loss of Black, who has 29 tackles and two tackles-for-loss this season, is the latest in a long line of blows to the Bucs this year. The team already lost starting Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks and starting right end Adrian Clayborn to season-ending injuries.
There also is a chance Tampa Bay might have to move forward, at least temporarily, without starting cornerback Eric Wright, who tweaked a sore left Achilles tendon on Sunday. The greater concern, though, is for Black, whose short-term replacement has yet to be decided.
Though Adam Hayward took over for Black on Sunday, Schiano suggested the Bucs might lean on rookie Najee Goode or reserve Jacob Cutrera as a replacement. He also did not rule out the possibility of Dekoda Watson getting increased playing time.
"It is the infant stages right now,'' Schiano said of his plans for replacing Black. "Every week is different. Depending on what offensive personnel (Carolina presents), we may feature this or feature that.
"We'll figure all that out as the week goes on."