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Gruden maintains optimism

After an 0-3 start, coach Jon Gruden is starting to hear the winds of criticism. Wednesday, Gruden said he knows that it comes with the territory but can't let it affect the team.

"You get criticized when you're 0-3 and until we start playing better, we're not going to win," Gruden said. "I appreciate the concern and criticism. I've also gotten a lot of support and for that I'm thankful as well We're going to keep working as hard as we can."

Gruden was careful to point out that a winless streak after three games isn't a death sentence in a 16-game season.

"There is a lot of football left to play," Gruden said. "We're not dying. All is not lost. We've got a lot of heartbeat on this football team and I think we have a lot of character."

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: It's going to be an interesting week for Peggy Shanahan. Her husband Mike is coach of the Broncos. Her son Kyle is a first-year offensive quality control coach with the Bucs.

The question is, who is she rooting for?

"God, I don't know," Mike said. "Right now, she's not even talking to me. So I don't think it's good right now. I think she's leaning toward him. I can't blame her though."

Mike said he won't try to engage Kyle in a fact-finding conversation.

"He's too smart," Mike said. "He won't even talk to me. He's not even going in that direction."

The Shanahans are obviously on the same page. Kyle said he normally speaks to his father daily, but won't this week for fear of inadvertently revealing Bucs secrets to his dad.

"He's been in the league for a while so he's smart about things and conniving about a lot of things, so I would rather not talk to him," Kyle said. "I want to make sure we win on Sunday, so I'll talk to him after the game I'm trying to give (the Bucs) all I can. I know some of the personnel and I'm trying to give them everything. We should be ready."

Gruden said Kyle has a bright future in the coaching business but also added that he is 1-7 against Mike and 0-3 with Kyle.

"I'm not a real big fan of the Shanahans," Gruden joked.

JOHNSON TALK: While there have been reports the Bucs are among four teams which have had discussions with the Chiefs about a possible trade for second-year running back Larry Johnson, the Bucs won't discuss the matter. Johnson is still under contract with the Chiefs and such discussions could be considered tampering.

Asked what he thought about the report, Gruden replied: "No comment." Pressed by a reporter if he would like to have Johnson, Gruden added: "What part of the (answer) didn't you hear?"

ROSTER MOVE: The Bucs made it official when they placed running back Charlie Garner and tight end Rickey Dudley on the injured reserve list, meaning they are out for the season. Garner started three games before tearing his right patellar tendon against Oakland Sunday. In the same game, Dudley fractured his right thumb.

The team signed receiver Marcus Knightto the active roster and released guard Kerry Jenkins from the injured reserve list. The team also brought back tight end Nate Lawrie to the practice squad and released receiver Allen Suber. Lawrie was a sixth-round pick who was released on Aug. 31.

_ ROGER MILLS, Times staff writer