The Bucs are ready to pull the plug on rookie Dexter Jackson as a kick returner.
"We'll talk about that a little bit today," Gruden said. "He's a young player. It's been pointed out the last several weeks. He does have talent and we're asking an awful lot of the young guy. He makes some critical decisions.
"We'll look at that. We'll look at that. We'll look at what candidates we do have. What competition we can create. And at the end of the day, we'll do what's best for our team.
"But our return game - the fumble to start the third quarter - that can't happen."
Jackson, a second-round pick last April, averaged 4.0 yards per kickoff return and 1.5 yards per punt return against the Seahawks.
Fortunately for Jackson, his fumble of the second half kickoff was recovered by Bucs defensive tackle Jimmy Wilkerson. But a penalty forced the Bucs to start their first possession of the second half at their own 5-yard line.
After going three-and-out, running back Justin Forsett returned Josh Bidwell's punt to the Bucs' 25-yard line. The Seahawks settled for a field goal.
"We're not making enough yardage in the return game," Gruden said Monday. "I've got to take a look at that. I know (special teams coach) Rich (Bisaccia) puts a lot of time in. I'm going to be supportive and remain confident, but we need to get more done there."
To Jackson's defense, he never really returned kickoffs at Appalachian State. He ranks 35th in the NFL with 14 returns for 327 yards (23.4 average), including a long of 45-yards.
Jackson's numbers returning punts are even worse. He ranks 52nd in the league with 20 punt returns for 97 yards, a 4.9 average. His longest has been 19 yards.
Against Seattle, the Bucs also struggled to cover kicks. Josh Wilson returned a kickoff 61 yards to the Tampa Bay 33 with about three minutes remaining in the first half. Wilson struck again in the fourth quarter by returning a kickoff 46 yards to midfield. He averaged 36.5 yards per return on four tries Sunday.
"I'm disappointed in it," Gruden said. "Our kickoff coverage, uncharacteristically, our punt coverage wasn't as good as it needs to be, either. We missed some tackles. There are three or four guys that can play better for us. Again, the injuries to our fullbacks, to our receiving corps, hurt us. That's a process that hurts special teams, too."
Among the list of candidates Gruden may choose from to replace Jackson include Michael Spurlock, who became the first Bucs player to return a kickoff for a touchdown in a regular-season game last season. The Bucs would have to create a roster spot in order to sign him from the practice squad.
BRYANT TO STAY PUT: WR Antonio Bryant, who had six catches for 115 yards and a touchdown Sunday night, will remain at split end when starter Joey Galloway returns from a foot sprain. Galloway could be moved to flanker.
Coach Jon Gruden says he's not surprised by Bryant's success.
"This is a guy that won the Biletnikoff Award at the University of Pittsburgh," Gruden said. "He's a second-round draft choice, started opposite Michael Irvin as a rookie, had 1,000 yards in '05 with the Browns, led the 49ers in receiving in '06. He's got talent, that's never been a question. I really give him a lot of credit. I give (wide receivers coach) Richard Mann a tremendous amount of credit. Those two guys have really hit it off. I think Antonio recognizes the future's now, you've got to take advantage of the opportunity. And that he is. He's leading our team, really, from an offensive standpoint. He's at the top of the board in terms of effort. He's been a team guy and I'm really happy for his success. If he keeps doing what he's doing, he's going to be an outstanding receiver for the Bucs."
GARCIA BACK ON TOP: QB Jeff Garcia had a breakout game against the Seahawks, passing for 310 yards and a touchdown. "He was hot," Gruden said. "He ran a no huddle offense. He did some things on his own last night, the play selection. He was great I thought. On the move, scrambled, touch, he drove the ball in some tight holes a couple times. He was alive. He was fresh. He looked great to me last night. He was 27 out of 36, two of the incompletions he clocked it, and I think two or three of the balls were dropped. He was on it last night. He played a great game for us. When you convert 10 or 11 third downs against a Seattle defense, your quarterback played really well."
WR Ike Hilliard was released from the hospital Sunday night after spending several hours there for observation following a concussion. Hilliard is questionable for Sunday's game at Dallas.
RB Warrick Dunn suffered an ankle sprain and an upper back strain against the Seahawks and is questionable for Sunday's game at Dallas.
FB B.J. Askew is expected to be questionable for Sunday's game at Dallas with a hamstring strain. That means RB Earnest Graham could see more time at FB with Jameel Cook.
WR Joey Galloway missed his fifth straight game Sunday night with a right foot sprain. He could return this week against Dallas.
WR Maurice Stovall has a hamstring strain and is questionable for Sunday's game at Dallas.
CB Aqib Talib, a rookie, leads the Bucs with three interceptions.
REPORT CARD VS. SEAHAWKS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- QB Jeff Garcia had the hot hand. He passed for 310 yards and a TD - a 47-yarder to WR Antonio Bryant. The protection was stellar and Garcia moved well in the pocket. He completed passes to 10 different receivers.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Bucs are still without starting FB B.J. Askew. Earnest Graham performed those duties at times. It was tough to get many yards against the Seahawks' offense. Graham had 52 yards on 23 carries while Dunn added 37 yards on 13 carries.
PASS DEFENSE: A -- The Bucs did a good job making QB Seneca Wallace hurry his passes. He completed just 12 of 23 attempts for 73 yards with one interception and a touchdown. Although the Bucs didn't record a sack, the pressure was good.
RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Except for a 45-yard run by Maurice Morris, the Bucs did a good job of shutting down the run. Julius Jones, who made a comment about the age of the Bucs' defense, was held to 42 yards on seven carries.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- PK Matt Bryant made two of three field goals, missing from 47 yards. Punter Josh Bidwell did a nice job of pinning the Seahawks deep despite one poor punt. But the return game was a disaster again. The Bucs couldn't cover punts or kickoffs, and Dexter Jackson was woeful as a returner.
COACHING: A -- Anytime you win five out of six games, you're doing something right. The Bucs are getting better and are in first place at 5-2 with a tie-breaker over Carolina.