Nerve damage has affected the strength and sensation in his foot, and sources told Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports that Nicks, who played in just two games this season, has received mixed messages from doctors about whether he will be able to resume his NFL career. He is scheduled to meet with a foot specialist soon to receive greater clarity on the matter.
The injury is in part a holdover from a toe problem that ended his 2012 season, an issue from which Nicks has never fully recovered.
It is unclear if the nerve damage was worsened by an MRSA infection Nicks contracted in the same foot at the Bucs' training camp facility during the offseason. One source told FOX Sports the injury was not related to MRSA, a severe strain of staph. Nicks played two games in September before the infection returned and sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
"I will just have to deal with it my whole life," Nicks told reporters this summer. "I would lie if I told you it didn't affect me at all. It affects the way I walk, the way I stand around. I have to stand a certain kind of way. It is something I just have to deal with. I don't want to get into taking painkillers and not knowing if it is hurting."
Kicker Lawrence Tynes and cornerback Johnthan Banks also were infected during the training camp outbreak. Tynes, who is no longer with the team, filed an injury grievance earlier this season alleging the team used improper protocol when placing him on the reserve/non-football injury list in August.
In 2006, Cleveland Browns lineman LeCharles Bentley suffered a torn pateller tendon in his knee and subsequently contracted a staph infection. Bentley, now retired, claimed the infection prevented the injury from healing and prematurely ended his NFL career. He settled a lawsuit with the Browns in 2012.