Packers Are Ready For Some 'Monday Night Football'


The prospect of playing in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football versus the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 3 has sent waves of excitement through the Green Bay Packers' locker room.

"It's a dream come true," guard William Whitticker said. "You always watch Monday Night Football, and everybody tunes into it."

Although the rookie Whitticker will play on that primetime stage for the first time, the Packers have appeared on Monday Night Football 45 times with a record of 24-20-1. Since Mike Sherman became coach in 2000, no other NFL team owns a better record on Monday night, as the Packers have posted a 9-3 record in that time.

Nine-year-veteran kicker Ryan Longwell has lost count of how many times he has played on Monday night. But he never will forget his first experience -- his first NFL game and a 1997 Packers 38-24 win against the Chicago Bears. But the games still cause him goosebumps.

"They're all fun," Longwell said. "There's something different about playing on Monday night than Sunday afternoon. You know everyone's watching."

Monday's game gives the Packers an opportunity to show a national audience that they are a better team than their 0-3 record would indicate.

"It's not in the Packers' personality to be 0-3," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "So everybody's going to be watching to see what we do and how we respond to this."

The Packers have responded well to playing on the grandest regular season stage. In their last 10 appearances on Monday Night Football, the Packers have a record of 8-2. Running back Ahman Green said the team relishes those opportunities.

"Monday nights may be a little more important because everybody is watching from around the NFL," Green said. "Since they played on Sunday, on Monday afternoons they are off and they can just turn on the TV and watch us on ABC. Not just us, but a lot of teams play well on Monday night."

The downside to playing on Monday night is that it creates a short week. Flying to the Southeast means the Packers will not arrive back in Green Bay until the early morning on Tuesday -- the players' typical day off. They will begin preparations for the Oct. 9 game against the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday.

"That's the drawback," fullback William Henderson said. "It shortens your week. It decreases your amount of rest time."

The coaching staff has emphasized the team's level of preparation heading into Monday's game. The Packers have practiced at a high level all week. Sherman called Wednesday's walk-through sessions one of the best he has ever witnessed. The team carried that momentum through Thursday.

"For an 0-3 team, we're practicing very well," linebacker Na'il Diggs said. "It was a great practice."

Sherman knows the team faces a challenge against the Panthers, a trendy 2005 Super Bowl pick who represented the NFC there two years ago. They also defeated the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots two weeks ago, 27-17.

Sherman, however, has high expectations for his own team.

"This is a very good football team, a very talented football team," Sherman said. "Our players are aware of that, but we feel confident going into the game. I think we're going to play well."

Although the Packers lost 17-16 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the coaching staff took several positives from that game, including how physical the Packers played.

"I saw the team feeding off each other from an energy standpoint," Sherman said. "I saw an intense desire to win."

Despite the excitement of playing on Monday Night Football, earning the team's first win serves as the primary motivation.

"We have enough motivation in itself just being 0-3," Sherman said. "If there's anything I want our guys to take away from being 0-3, it's to have an intensified will to win. Hopefully that's the case whether we're playing Monday night, Sunday night, Sunday afternoon or 6:30 in the morning in the parking lot."

The Packers will play Monday's game in Carolina's Bank of America Stadium where they have a 4-1 record and defeated the Panthers 24-14 in 2004's inaugural Monday Night Football game.

The Packers, however, have concerned themselves with one number -- one. Posting their first victory supersedes everything else.

"This game's pretty big for us," Barnett said. "But every game is pretty big for us when you're 0-3."

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