TAMPA - It was difficult to tell if Jon Gruden was serious or attempting to make light of a trying situation.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-3 for the first time since 1996, and their coach insisted Monday things aren't as bad as they seem.
"I think the future's so bright here you've got to wear shades," Gruden said after beginning his answer to a question about the team's emotional state by saying: "We're all dejected, we're all down."
Sunday night's 30-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders dropped the Bucs three games behind unbeaten Atlanta in the NFC South. Still, Gruden said his injury-riddled team is far from finished.
Even while announcing running back Charlie Garner is out for the year after tearing the patella tendon in his right knee and that tight end Rickey Dudley will be sidelined indefinitely with a broken right thumb, Gruden said the Bucs could be fine if they somehow find a way to win a game.
"There are a lot of games left. ... If we can get some momentum going, we've seen crazier things happen," the coach said.
"I am going to be resilient. This is as low as I have been personally. The two or three friends that I have left in Tampa, I am sure will call me sometime today and pump me up. We are going to rebuild this thing. We are going to re-energize this thing and we are going to once again be great."
Gruden said Brad Johnson will remain the starting quarterback, even though most of the yardage the Bucs gained against the Raiders came after Oakland built a 30-6 lead. The offense produced its first touchdowns of the season in the fourth quarter, finishing with 389 yards.
The loss of Garner, who signed with Tampa Bay after undergoing offseason surgery on his left knee, is a major blow because Gruden was counting on his playmaking ability.
Michael Pittman, who sat out the first three games while serving a suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, rejoined the team Monday and will replace Garner in the starting lineup.
"We're anxious to get him going again," Gruden said. "We had obviously looked forward to working him and Charlie in the same backfield together, but unfortunately that won't be the case this year. But Pittman's a guy who we think is a fine football player and we'll have to lean on him at this time."
Garner and Dudley join a growing list of key injuries on offense.
Receiver Joey Galloway is out with a groin strain he aggravated in the opener, while receiver Joe Jurevicius is recovering from back surgery after missing most of 2003 with a knee injury.
The team's woes are compounded by Keenan McCardell's holdout. Last year's leading receiver wants a new contract; the Bucs insist they will not give in to his demand for a raise over the $2.5 million he was scheduled to earn.
"We would love to have him in here playing for us, but there is a salary cap. There is a reality that makes this very difficult," Gruden said.
"This is a business decision and, unfortunately, we are at an impasse right now. It is frustrating for him, frustrating for me, frustrating for us and hopefully it gets resolved at some point soon. The guy should be playing football. He is a good player."