Bucs LB Quincy Black is a long way from playing again, based on the latest development in his road back from a neck injury sustained Nov. 11 that required hospitalization.

Black is scheduled for surgery this month on a damaged nerve, putting his future in more doubt.

"(Doctors) were waiting to see how much regrowth would happen naturally," GM Mark Dominik said. "This is supposed to promote the growth."

Black's agent, Harold Lewis, said last month that improvement was slow, but that Black's level of discomfort had at least subsided from "excruciating pain." Lewis said at the time the injury was not considered career-threatening, but doctors don't have a timetable for recovery.

Right now, Black's not close.

"Quincy Black is still in the early stages of where he's going to be long-term," Dominik said.

The Bucs' first concern is Black's health, but eventually they might face business decisions. If Black isn't likely to play in the foreseeable future and the Bucs release him, he would be eligible for $1 million in injury-protection pay in 2013. If his injury impacts his ability to play in 2014, the Bucs could be on the hook for $500,000 more. Those sums do not count against the salary cap.

Black, who turns 29 next month, has three years remaining on a five-year, $29 million contract. All the guarantees in the deal have been paid.

STILL AT IT: Monte Kiffin is back, as energetic as ever.

The longtime Bucs defensive coordinator, recently hired as Cowboys coordinator, stopped by Ladd-Peebles Stadium for Senior Bowl workouts.

"I love it in Mobile today," he said, with his typical enthusiasm. "The sun is out. I love it. It's just fun to be back and get it going and start scouting some of these players."

After four years in college working with his son, Lane, at Tennessee and USC, Monte returned to the pros, where he made his mark. The decision wasn't easy.

"It was good," said Kiffin, who still owns a home in Madeira Beach. "I like college. College is fun."