September 2, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Lions eager to be on Monday night stage

Victor Cruz and the Giants are five-point underdogs to the Lions on Monday Night Football. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

Allen Park — Playing on “Monday Night Football” is one of the coveted honors in the NFL.

The Lions hadn’t been the Monday night stage in more than a decade before 2011, when they beat the Bears, 24-13, at a raucous Ford Field. But since that game, Monday night has been forgettable, with a 13-7 loss to the Bears in 2012 and an 18-16 loss to the Ravens last season.

The Lions are looking to turn the tide, opening their season against the Giants on Monday at Ford Field.

“It’s a great platform for our team, for our city, for our organization,” first-year coach Jim Caldwell said. “I remember my first ‘Monday Night Football’ game that I was involved in.”

Caldwell was with the Buccaneers, who played the Kurt Warner-led Rams.

“I just remember the buzz in the air,” he said. “People had all day to get ready for the game.”

The hype and atmosphere are often what stick out for players and coaches, as the preparation typically is the same throughout the week, just moved back a day. The fan experience, even with the workday — and in Detroit’s case, a Royals-Tigers game earlier Monday — means downtown will be abuzz.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson recalled the 2011 victory over the Bears, not as much for the game, but for the excitement surrounding it.

“The environment, there’s nothing like it,” he said. “It’s extremely loud and extremely smoky in (Ford Field), and we look forward to the environment because the fans bring it.”

Said quarterback Matthew Stafford: “I expect it to be loud; I expect it to be a great, fun game and a great atmosphere. I’ve been a part of some Monday nights here and they’re pretty special; they’re fun. Our fans do a great job of showing up.”

Extra point

Safeties James Ihedigbo (rest) and Don Carey (hamstring) were the only players sitting during Tuesday’s practice.

Ihedigbo, the starting strong safety, said Monday he expects to play against the Giants and insisted he’s simply resting and not dealing with a specific injury. He missed the last two exhibitions.

Cover boys

Stafford appeared on one of the regional Sports Illustrated covers, along with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. The rivals on the field weren’t photographed together, though; Stafford said the pictures were taken separately and then merged.

“I was Photoshopped — I was photographed out there after practice and they knew they couldn’t get us in the same room slugging it out,” Stafford joked.