SHREWSBURY — Being in the midst of the action rather than on the periphery is where Shawn Loiseau wants to be when it comes to football.
So after missing three games and the past five weeks recovering from multiple injuries, the veteran linebacker and vocal team captain was refreshed, ready and — most of all — raring to return to the field when the Massachusetts Pirates meet the Orlando Predators on Saturday night in Florida.
“I’m excited to get out there and play again for sure,” Loiseau said last week during a break from work at Undisputed Nutrition, the business he owns on Route 9 here in his hometown.
“I miss it. You know how I feel about football, so watching from the sidelines has sucked. But I’m excited to be back now, to be healthy and stay healthy because the rest of the season is a pretty tough stretch for us.”
The 6-foot-1, 244-pound Loiseau was the Massachusetts Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Shrewsbury High in 2007, and a two-time All-American at Merrimack College before signing with the Indianapolis Colts (twice) and Houston Texans in the NFL.
Loiseau, 29, has played indoor football in Los Angeles, South Dakota, Nebraska, and, since last season, Worcester. A pair of severe injuries limited him to three regular-season games with the Pirates last year, but he entered this season fully fit and it showed.
In four games, Loiseau made four solo and eight assisted tackles, including one for a loss, intercepted a pass and recorded a quarterback hit. But soft-tissue injuries to his hands, groin and calf forced him to shut it down.
“It’s frustrating,” Loiseau said. “This type of league is very demanding on your body as opposed to the outdoor game because of the turf and the boards. So soft-tissue injuries are very common because the turf has no give. If you hit it, stuff just breaks.
“But (it’s better) compared to last year when I tore my knee and broke my wrist. It’s not stuff I have to get surgery for or wait for tendons and ligaments to heal.”
So things are trending in the right direction for Loiseau. Same goes for the Pirates.
After starting their sophomore season with one win in their first five games, the Pirates swept a home-and-home series with the first-year New York Streets to improve to 3-4 and climb to fourth place in the National Arena League standings before having a bye last week.
“We look good, although we still have a lot of underlying things to fix,” Loiseau said. “But we played a team (New York) we really can’t measure our standard with. … So, for us, we’re going to have to play a team like Jacksonville or Carolina or one of the better teams and that will be the real testing point for us.”
The Pirates opened the season with a pair of losses to defending league champion Carolina and will face Jacksonville, which entered the weekend with a league-leading 5-1 record, twice in July. Their other five remaining games are against teams that are .500 or worse.
So the opportunity is there for the Pirates to continue their playoff push while also being prudent when it comes to managing injuries.
“There are six teams in the league and four of us are going to go to the playoffs,” Loiseau said. “So we want to be in the top four and make the playoffs and make it there healthy. That’s the biggest thing.
“Last year we had the best record in the league, but we didn’t enter the playoffs healthy, so having the best record didn’t much matter. We’d much rather make it to the playoffs healthy because all you have to do is win one game and you’re in the championship.”
The Pirates went 11-5 and were regular-season champions last year. But injuries, especially to NAL MVP quarterback Sean Brackett, caught up to them in the playoffs, leading to an ouster in the semifinals.