Schmuck: Playing on 'Monday Night Football' still resonates with the Ravens

We’ll have to wait and see how many fans and television viewers will be “ready for some football” on Monday night, but the Ravens seem pretty stoked about their first “Monday Night Football” matchup at M&T Bank Stadium in more than five years.

“Growing up, traditionally, Monday night was the biggest stage in the world,” veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs said.

Of course, when Suggs was a young football fan, MNF was the NFL’s only regular-season prime-time franchise. In 2006, the league debuted both Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football, which robbed the Monday broadcast of some of its novelty. Over the past 16 months, NFL television ratings have suffered across the board because of the national anthem controversy and a perceived decline in the quality of play because of injuries to many of the sport’s biggest stars, but Monday Night Football continues to draw more than 10 million viewers per week.

It certainly isn’t the ratings juggernaut that it was in decades past, but it still strikes a nostalgic chord for a lot of the players in the Ravens locker room.

“Obviously, we all grew up viewing Monday Night, just like anybody does,” quarterback Joe Flacco said, “[and] how cool it is to just sit back after work, after school, and watch your teams go at it. I think, when you think back to that, and how you were a little kid, or as the high school player looking to play in those Monday night games, for us, that’s what adds to the game a little bit, just because you know how excited your fans and the world can be to watch those games.”

Several players who grew up in the Eastern and Central time zones remembered having to cajole their parents to let them stay up late on a school night to watch a telecast that originally started at 9 p.m. on the East Coast. The NFL eventually moved the starting time up a half-hour, but the games still can push midnight.

“Yeah, my mom let me stay up a little later just to watch it growing up,” rookie defensive tackle Chris Wormley said. “It’s something that I used to watch as a little kid. Growing up watching and now to be part of it is something special. I think we’re wearing our black uniforms. It’s going to be a blackout in a stadium. Great atmosphere.”

Michael Pierce has similar memories and said last week that the singular nature of the MNF matchup – which creates a sense that the whole world is watching – just adds another layer of motivation to play well, not that the Ravens should need any help getting psyched up for a game that could factor heavily in their playoff aspirations.

“I grew up watching Monday Night Football,” Pierce said. “You remember the legends like Brett Favre and those guys going at it. It’s the biggest stage in football for me, personally, so I definitely want to show out on ‘Monday Night Football.’”

Pierce, in his second season on the Ravens defensive line, was surprised to hear that this would be the first MNF game at M&T Bank Stadium since the Ravens trounced the Bengals in the first Monday night game of 2012.

“I wasn’t aware of that,” he said, “but it’s my first one [at home] and I’ve got to make it a good one.”

Rookie cornerback Marlon Humphrey acknowledged that Monday Night Football wasn’t a big deal for him and his friends, because a different level of football was a little more popular in his hometown of Hoover, Ala.

“I guess in Alabama, it was really college football for the people I knew,” he said. “I’d come home and my dad would be watching it. I’d stick my head in and watch a little, but I never really sat down or rushed home to watch Monday Night Football. I didn’t really know it was that big of a deal, but I’m excited to know that everybody’s going to be watching us because we’ll be the only teams playing. That factor of it is very exciting.”

The national broadcast creates opportunities for players to strut their stuff in front of the whole country and the same goes for the host city. Baltimore will be on the big stage, too, which means positive images of the city will be displayed during breaks in the action.

“It will be nice to have Baltimore showcased in a positive way that people can take a look and see,’’ said MNF sideline reporter Lisa Salters, who makes her home in Baltimore. “And, of course, Monday Night Football will show some beautiful images of the city and the harbor.”

The fact that it has been five years since the Ravens made an MNF appearance is not the result of any anti-Baltimore conspiracy, but it has been an unusually long time and owner Steve Bisciotti has lobbied over the past few years to secure a Monday night game. The Ravens have been the visiting team on Monday night five times since the 2012 home game.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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