TORONTO - Senior Toronto FC players say the speculation about star striker Jermain Defoe's future is just part of the game.
"This is football," midfielder Michael Bradley told reporters Tuesday. "When you look around the world — big clubs, big players — there's speculation. There's things that go on behind the scenes, in some cases that you guys never even know about.
"To be honest, it interests and, in some ways, fazes you more than us. Because this is something that we understand is part of our job."
Added captain Steven Caldwell: "There's always offers and movement in any football club that I've ever played at, in fact any football club in the world. These things happen. Jermain's here, he's a great lad, a great professional and a very good football player and I'm sure he'll be back here shortly once he gets over his (groin) injury and he'll be prepared to give 100 per cent to Toronto FC."
Toronto turned down a club-record transfer bid for Defoe from an English Premier League club on Monday as the transfer window closed.
Harry Redknapp, manager of Queens Park Rangers, said his team tried hard to pry Defoe free but was told Toronto would not give him up ahead of the MLS playoffs.
Redknapp, who worked with Defoe at West Ham, Portsmouth and Tottenham, said Defoe wants to return to England. Toronto GM Tim Bezbatchenko denied that, saying his star forward is happy in Toronto.
Defoe, who is nursing his injury in England, has yet to speak publicly on the future. The next transfer window is in January.
"We only want guys at this club that are committed to being here and whose hearts are in it," said Bradley. "Jermain has been a guy from Day 1 who when he's here has shown a desire and an excitement and a real motivation to not only being here but to helping this team win.
"I can only speak for myself but I'm no different."
The speculation over Defoe continued to swirl Tuesday in England.
The Daily Telegraph reported the 31-year-old England striker is believed to be concerned he made a mistake by moving to MLS and that the standard of soccer is not as good as he had hoped. The paper added that Defoe has struggled to adapt to his new life and was upset at the weekend firing of manager Ryan Nelsen and five members of his coaching staff.
Bradley, meanwhile, repeated his commitment to the cause as he recalled his excitement at the challenge that lay ahead when he and Defoe were introduced as Toronto FC players in January.
"Those might have been just words to you guys but it was exactly what I meant," he said. "I didn't expect it to be easy and it hasn't been. But we've made good progress and we're going to continue to make good progress. And everyone who's here is proud of what we're doing."
Both Caldwell and Bradley, who has been captaining the MLS side in the Scottish defender's injury-enforced absence, said they were disappointed at the weekend firings.
"Any time somebody loses their job, it's not a nice thing," said Bradley. "And certainly for us as players, you always feel responsible when results and things within a club don't go well. Because at the end of the day, we are the ones on the field."
"These decisions get made," said Caldwell. "I've been in the game long enough, and Ryan's been in long enough, to understand that these things happen.
"We look forward. I'm a Toronto FC player, I'm fully committed to the job whoever the manager is and looking forward to an exciting and tough run-in (to the season) where we have to show our collective spirit and personality and strength and makes sure that we get in these playoffs and we're firing at the right time to do well in them."
Toronto (9-9-6) stands fourth in the Eastern Conference and remains in playoff contention. But the team has won just three of its last 13 games (3-5-5) as it prepares to play in Philadelphia on Wednesday.