- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — Navy offensive lineman John Dowd isn’t sticking out like a sore thumb at practice this week.

It’s more like a broken thumb.

The senior right guard started the past 16 games for the Midshipmen. He intends to make it 17 despite a broken metacarpal that connects his right thumb to his wrist.

The reason is simple: Navy (2-1) plays host to Air Force (2-1) on Saturday in the first contest that could help the Mids win back the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

“Not at least for this game,” Dowd said of any doubts about taking the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. “If I break my four other metacarpals, then maybe the game after we’ll see. At least for this game, I’m playing.”

Even if he doesn’t enjoy quite the same level as dexterity as usual.

Jeff Fair, Navy’s associate athletic director for sports medicine, fashioned a wrap for Dowd to use during practice. Beneath layers of tape is a cut-down boxing glove used to provide protection for Dowd’s broken bone.

The look might change by Saturday - perhaps a little less padding for much of the fist, maybe a little more closer to Dowd’s wrist to ensure the injury isn’t exacerbated during a game.

For now, it appears Dowd will be able to function two weeks after suffering the injury.

“They don’t come any tougher than John Dowd,” coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “He’s just a tough kid, and right now he’s doing well with it.”

Of course, it won’t be quite the same as normal. An offensive lineman clearly needs his hands to block and deter opponents. Dowd will work with one hand and one heavily wrapped club.

Niumatalolo joked the upside is there’s even less of a chance Dowd could get called for holding. Dowd, meanwhile, is attempting to grow as comfortable as possible with his situation.

“It is a little difficult in some respects that I can’t prop on the ground, I can’t push myself up,” Dowd said. “It’s more just something I have to adjust to. Exactly how you punch and use your hands will be a little bit different. You have to be a little bit more open; you can’t stay in real tight, which is funny because as an offensive lineman that’s what you want to do.”

More than correct technique, what Dowd wants is the chance to help Navy avenge last year’s 14-6 loss. The setback snapped the Mids’ 15-game winning streak against service academies and led to Navy relinquishing the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time since 2002.

Dowd’s eagerness to play through his injury is not lost on teammates who have waited a year for another shot at the Falcons.

“It shows what type of person he is and how much he cares about this team and how big of a game this is to him,” defensive end Jabaree Tuani said. “He broke his thumb, but he doesn’t care less. It’s Air Force week.”

NOTES: Outside linebackers Mason Graham (knee) and Jarred Shannon (shoulder) returned to practice. Graham, who sat out the Sept. 17 loss at South Carolina, is listed as a co-starter with Brye French. Shannon missed the past two games and is listed as a co-starter with Tra’ves Bush.