- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2007

In an offseason in which Adam “Pacman” Jones faces felony charges and Michael Vick faces investigation, it’s refreshing to come across Shaine Smith.

A rookie free agent receiver for the Rams, Smith is beyond thrilled to be in the NFL, at least for a few months.

“It’s hard to believe I’m in a Rams uniform,” Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I still can’t fathom the thought that I’m actually doing this. I’ve come a long way from where I’ve been.”

Where Smith used to be was homeless. He spent nights with his mother and half brother in her Honda Civic in Carlsbad, Calif. Fortunately, Smith’s father, who separated from his mother when Smith was just starting school, heard about the situation and brought his son to New York.

Smith played well enough as a senior in Queens to earn some feelers from Division I schools, but his grades forced him to Nassau Community College. After two years there, he transferred to nearby Hofstra.

The 6-foot-2, 189-pound Smith didn’t play much as a junior because Hofstra already had two future NFL receivers in Marques Colston and Devale Ellis. But Colston delivered a fabulous debut season for the Saints, and Smith caught 60 passes for 951 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. So the Rams were willing to give another Hofstra product a shot at establishing a pro home.

Shaine has talent,” Rams coach Scott Linehan said. “Guys like Shaine will get a lot of chances out here.”

Smith, who runs a 4.5-second 40, sees Colston’s 70 catches, 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns as a standard for rookies.

“It gives me great confidence,” Smith said. “If he can do it, why can’t I? I don’t want to come in here and say, ‘I’m a rookie. I’m going to learn the ropes, so I’ll just sit there behind these guys.’ I want to play my first year. That’s my goal, and it will happen.”

Red-faced in Atlanta — Falcons owner Arthur Blank and general manager Rich McKay are so embarrassed by the controversy surrounding their franchise quarterback that they sent a letter to their season ticket holders asking for patience and understanding.

“This offseason has certainly presented a lot of challenges to us and we realize it has been difficult for our fans,” the letter read in part. “While unsubstantiated to date, the current public situation concerning Michael Vick puts us in a particularly difficult spot because of the daily attention it is receiving in the media, and our inability to respond because we don’t yet have all the facts. … We hope you understand it would be inappropriate and premature to make any definitive statements or take any action until we know the facts. For the benefit of our fans, the Falcons and Michael, we hope there will be a quick and clear resolution to this matter so we all can move forward.

“Be assured we are intensely focused on preparing for the 2007 season. We are very encouraged by Head Coach Bobby Petrino’s efforts in putting together an exciting team and schemes to make us highly competitive on the field. Over the last five years, we have worked very hard to build a winning team and a respected franchise for our fans and the Atlanta community. You have responded in a positive manner and we thank you for your support and loyalty. We respectfully ask for your understanding as we work through our current situation.”

Niners on the move? — The possible move of the 49ers from San Francisco to Santa Clara, 40 miles east of 49-year-old Monster Park, became more real Tuesday when NFL officials made their first visit to the possible stadium site. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom discussed building at the former Hunters Point Naval Shipyard with those officials Monday, but the 49ers seem committed to Santa Clara.

While 22 NFL markets have opened or broken ground for stadiums in the past 12 years, California’s three stadiums are all at least 40 years old. No other stadium is more than 35 years old.