OAKLAND, Calif. – There were no smiles, and there was no laughing.
Bleak. Quiet. Uncomfortable. That's how it is in losing locker rooms, and it's sure how it was in the Jaguars' locker room at O.co Coliseum Sunday afternoon following a second consecutive double-digit loss to start the 2013 regular season, the first season of the Gus Bradley/David Caldwell era.
Silence ruled as the visitors dressed for the short bus ride back to Fremont, Calif., where the Jaguars will spend the week preparing to play Seattle Sunday.
But know this:
This was a realistic silence, meaning that while there was frustration there was no finger-pointing and no desperation. There was also resolve.
Yes, these are difficult times.
Yes, it now seems evident that the task ahead will be difficult, too, but there remains a faith that better days are ahead, and that this team's course must continue to be followed.
"We just have to keep fighting, keep competing," wide receiver Cecil Shorts III said after catching eight passes for 93 yards in the Jaguars' 19-9 loss to the Oakland Raiders. "We have to keep getting better and trust the results will come."
To hear veterans such as Shorts and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny tell it, trust remains a theme, and remains high among coaches as well as players.
"I believe in those guys in the locker room," Bradley said afterward.
Let's take time here to make this much clear:
Those quotes above? They're not meant to be insulting. And the theme of this editorial is not meant to gloss over the feeling of Jaguars fans in the wake of a disappointing – and for some, perhaps – a faith-shaking start.
The Jaguars lost 28-2 to Kansas City in the regular-season opener last week, and if Sunday's result in Oakland was better, the main part that was better was a two-possession stretch by the offense after the outcome was pretty much decided.
This editorial is not meant to pretend that the first two games were good, or that you should look at the results and think, "Wow! Fantastic!" To write such a thing now would be silly.
What we do mean to say here is while what is going on now is not what the team wanted or expected, it is a small part of a longer-term picture, and it is no way faith-shaking to those assigned the task overseeing and executing this process.
And to hear veterans tell it Sunday, it wasn't faith-shaking to them, either.
"We're a resilient group," Posluszny said. "That's the message Coach Bradley is always going to give us, is that we're not going to get down. He's going to make sure we take it day-by-day and focus on whatever opportunity is in front of us."
Quarterback Chad Henne talked about that in the post-game, too, how the team continued to fight, and if some fans find such quotes irritating and empty, they're not that way to the players. Bradley's theme is constant improvement and competition, and while players are human and want to win, they also remain focused on that theme.
Posluszny said Sunday that while that may not seem like a revolutionary concept, Bradley's approach is indeed different than any under which he has played. On other teams, he said goals were framed in championships and winning and losing. Posluszny said that hasn't been the case this season – never was. Instead, it was about improving every day and letting the rest take care of itself. If it doesn't sound all that different, Posluszny said it is – and it's a big reason he expects this team to remain strong.
"We want to maximize everything we do," Posluszny said. "That's what we have to do with these young guys, keep building day by day by day, and the end result will take care of itself."
And no, Posluszny said, it won't be easy.
"If it was easy, everybody would do it," Posluszny said "That's what makes this game such a challenge. It can be very difficult, but when we see things thing turn, it's going to be exciting."
So, no discouragement? No signs of wear?
"It's too early in the season, too young a team, too early in the process," Posluszny said.
Bradley's mindset is to emphasize positives. Not that he is beyond addressing issues. Penalties are an issue for the Jaguars right now, and Bradley spent a decent amount of his post-game comments on the issue. At the same time, he said, not everything was negative."
"There are some positives," Bradley said. "We competed our tail off. We're taking care of the ball. There are a lot of little victories, but they're frustrated in there because it didn't turn out the way we had hoped. Why? Well, we have to clean those things up."
There will be those who dislike that quote. Fans don't want to hear about positives after one double-digit loss, much less two. And fans shouldn't want to hear that. Fans should want their team to win, and should be angry when it doesn't.
But for now, though, Bradley and the players can't focus on that. Their focus must remain on the task at hand, and to hear players tell it, that focus remains strong despite the short-term frustrations.
There are no smiles around the Jaguars and no laughing.
But there does remain a determination, and at this early, difficult stage of the first season of this era, that's the most important thing of all.