Cardinals relish opportunity to play on Monday Night Football

Oct 23, 2015, 5:28 PM | Updated: Oct 24, 2015, 3:33 pm
Arizona Cardinals' Patrick Peterson (21) and Rashad Johnson, right, celebrate a defensive stop on t...
Arizona Cardinals' Patrick Peterson (21) and Rashad Johnson, right, celebrate a defensive stop on the the San Diego Chargers final possession during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 18-17. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals are hosting the Baltimore Ravens in the final game of the Week 7 slate.

The entire NFL world will be watching.

“Nationally televised games do have a little bit different energy to them,” Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “You see the TV crews, you see Steve Young and Ray Lewis and guys walking the sidelines. It definitely is a little bit different buzz in the air.”

Anyone who says this is just another game is lying. Sure, at 4-2 and coming off a road loss, the Cardinals would very much like to get a win, no matter what day they are playing on. But the pomp and circumstance that will come to University of Phoenix Stadium is different from the normal regular season game.

As in, there is pomp and circumstance.

Many Cardinals talked about how big of a deal Monday Night Football was while they were growing up. Of course, you don’t have to be a football player to enjoy the game, which served as a nice reward following the first day of the work or school week. It was almost like one last taste of the weekend before being forced to settle into the drudgery of the rest of the week.

“For me, particularly growing up in southern California, you don’t have a home team,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “So on Sundays, you don’t know what games you’re going to get. You don’t consistently have a team playing.

“But Monday night, you get to watch Monday night every week. I grew up eating dinner in the living room. That was the one night we got to eat on the table and we couldn’t spill, just watching the game with my dad and my brother. I think everybody’s got probably a similar story. Sitting around with family or friends or whatever it may be, coaches or whatever it may be.”

Knowing all that, the trick is not getting too amped up. Arians said that’s not a problem for him because, “if I get anymore amped up on the sideline I’ll have a heart attack,” but that does not mean players — especially the young ones who may not have played on this kind of stage before — will have the same sense of relative calmness.

Arians, though, said it’s up to the team’s veterans to ensure the youngsters are ready to go.

One of those veterans, defensive lineman Calais Campbell, said it’s important to treat it like a regular game, with the only difference being that it is played later in the day. That means there is a little extra time between when a player will wake up and when he has to get to the stadium ready to play, so it’s important to take care of their body.

“For the most part, most of the guys — especially coming from college —  most of their games are night games in college, so they should be used to it,” he said. “The biggest thing is not getting too excited until it’s actually game time, because if you get too excited too early, you burn a lot of energy that you’ll need come fourth quarter.”

Part of what helps a team prepare for Monday Night Football is acknowledging how it is different from a normal game but not preparing any differently. While the lights are brighter, at its heart it is just a football game that the Cardinals feel like they need to win. After all, you don’t want to disappoint the kind of audience they expect to have.

“I won’t say [there is] more intensity, but it’s a different atmosphere,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “Growing up in Pompano Beach, Florida, having an opportunity to come home from school — you play a street football game with your friends and come in the house and watch Monday Night, it’s nothing like it. Especially when John Madden was the commentator at the time.

“So to have the privilege and the honor to go out there on Monday Night and play there now in front of millions and millions of fans and being the only game on TV, there’s nothing like it. I won’t say there’s going to be any tensions or jittery bugs flying around, just think the atmosphere is going to be different. I think you can expect a playoff atmosphere here on Monday night coming up.”

Monday’s game is the first of three times the Cardinals are scheduled to appear on national TV, as their Week 10 trip to Seattle will be played on Sunday Night on NBC and their Week 14 home tilt against the Minnesota Vikings, which is set to be played on a Thursday, will air on the NFL Network.

No matter how the stage is set, each will only count as one win or one loss in the final standings. But if you notice a little extra bounce in the home team’s step, it will be easy to understand why.

“I try to go about it as just another game, but it’s just a little bit more exciting because you know you’re the only game on and you’re prime time,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “Especially being on the West Coast, with me being a South guy a lot of my family and friends a lot of times don’t get to see our games on TV as much, so for it to be a prime time game and knowing that everybody is going to have an opportunity to watch and we’re the only one on TV.

“It is a big stage game and it’s always fun to play in.”

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Cardinals relish opportunity to play on Monday Night Football