Essendon's acting captain Brendon Goddard admits winning AFL games isn't the focus of the suspension-hit club.
But Goddard says suggestions from ex-Bombers coach Mark Thompson that Essendon have given up trying to win games is wrong.
"Everyone has been realistic ... it's really not about winning or losing, we're not sending those messages," Goddard told Fox Footy's AFL Tonight program on Thursday.
"It's important to create a winning culture, don't get me wrong, butt it is about improving.
"We are not naive. We know the situation and we know where the list is at ... it has always been about just improving and looking long term."
Goddard said Thompson was entitled to his opinion about Essendon, whose playing ranks have been thinned by a dozen players being suspended over the club's controversial 2012 supplements program.
But Goddard said the players, winners just once this season, have not given up.
"It's obviously hard, the situation we're in," he said ahead of Sunday's home game against Greater Western Sydney.
"And a number of losses and probably the last two weeks too, such heavy losses, you kind of struggle and, not lack in motivation, you probably think when is the next one (win) going to come.
"So that is the challenge at some stage of the year we were going to have to face. And we're pretty deep in it now.
"But that is why it's important that what you do from Monday to Friday, what the coaches are doing with the players to keep them up and about, being motivated and positive, is really important.
"I think we are doing a pretty good job of that."