CHARLOTTE – Monday Night Football isn't just a big stage. On that day, it's football's only stage.
"The song just plays in everyone's head when you talk about the NFL. Primetime game, everyone is going to be watching," Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said. "It's kind of the iconic stage that everyone would like to be on."
The Panthers have an opportunity to perform on that Monday night stage this week when they play the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. It's Carolina's first appearance on Monday Night Football since 2009 at Dallas, and the Panthers – who are 5-4 all time on Monday Night Football – are eager to embrace the national spotlight.
"There's no other game on but us," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "It's time to show the world what we're about. We don't have a great record right now, but this can be a game that shows what we're capable of."
Both the Panthers (2-8) and Eagles (3-7) have endured their share of struggles this season, but head coach Ron Rivera said his team is focused on proving it's better than the record indicates.
"We know we are (better than our record)," Rivera said. "Anytime we get a chance to come to the football field, whether it's a Sunday or a Monday, we are out to prove we are better than what our record says."
Added wide receiver Steve Smith: "They have a lot of things going on just as we do, but all of that goes out of the window. You get to be out on center stage in front of friends, family, so it's always exciting to be the only show."
That's a feeling shared throughout the locker room.
Sixth-year defensive end Charles Johnson saw brief action in that 2009 Monday night meeting against the Cowboys. Now, as a team captain and the team-leader in sacks, he can't wait to play a significant role on Monday night for the first time in his career.
"It's just going to be a good feeling showing your talents to the world," Johnson said. "The spotlight comes on, and you've got to show up."
For rookie cornerback Josh Norman, it's still sinking in that he'll be playing on Monday Night Football.
"I think it's everybody's dream growing up," Norman said. "There's nothing like it."
This will be the Panthers second primetime appearance of the year and the first one was admittedly a disappointment.
Playing in front of the home crowd at Bank of America Stadium, Carolina suffered a 36-7 defeat to the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football. It was a game the defending Super Bowl champions controlled throughout.
"We didn't handle it very well," Rivera said. "It was a big stage for us, and we did not handle the circumstances very well and we missed opportunities."
The Panthers weren't quite ready for that high-profile, early-season meeting, but they'll get a chance at redemption in front of the national audience against another NFC East opponent in Week 12.
"What a challenge for us to have. Any competitor would want this type of challenge on Monday Night Football," Newton said. "I think it's going to bring out the best."