Bears defensive end dies of cardiac arrest

CHICAGO — Gaines Adams, the 26-year-old defensive end the Chciago Bears hoped would jump-start their pass rush, died of cardiac arrest Sunday in his hometown of Greenwood, S.C.

A kind and quiet personality whom the Bears acquired in an October trade, Adams was not known well on his new team.

An initial coroner's report revealed Adams had an enlarged heart, a physical abnormality for a 6-foot-5, 258-pound athlete who had a freakish combination of skills that led him from eight-man football in high school to an All-America career at Clemson and selection with the fourth pick of the 2007 draft by the Buccaneers.

Adams is the second NFL player to die in a month. Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry died from injuries suffered from a fall out of a truck in North Carolina. The Adams news resonated around the league on the second day of divisional playoffs.

"All the time he was in Tampa, it was always about him as a player and what he did and didn't do as the fourth pick in the draft," former teammate Derrick Brooks told the Tampa Tribune. "The people didn't get to know who he really was or how connected he was with his hometown and how he was starting to work toward giving back to his community.


"That's some of the stuff that I talked to him about — how to go about giving back and making a mark in the community. Hopefully he was far enough along with that that he'll still have an impact."

"It's a sad outcome," Commissioner Roger Goodell said before the Jets-Chargers game in San Diego. "He was a terrific young man. I met him at the draft when he came in, and he stood out. He was a very caring individual. I'd seen him a couple of times, most recently in Chicago (in November).

"He seemed like a very genuine, nice man. He seemed focused on being a good person, not just an NFL player. I was always taken with him."

Adams' girlfriend called an ambulance Sunday morning, and he was transported to the emergency room at Self Regional Healthcare at 7:14 a.m. and was pronounced dead at 8:21 a.m., according to Greenwood County chief deputy coroner Marcia Kelley-Clark.

The Associated Press reported the state is running toxicology tests, though drug use was not suspected as a factor in Adams' death. Those results probably will not be available for at least two months, Kelley-Clark said.

Adams is survived by a son and a daughter.

Asked about rushing the passer before the start of the 2008 season, he told the St. Petersburg Times it was tough to explain the sensation of getting a sack: "It's like you're on top of the world, and 80,000 fans are screaming, and your teammates are celebrating."

But Adams said he'd experienced one greater sensation, the birth of his son.


The Bears issued a brief statement: "We are stunned and saddened by the news of Gaines' passing. Our prayers are with his family during this difficult time."

The Bears acquired Adams from the Bucs on Oct. 16 for a second-round draft pick. Considering general manager Jerry Angelo's reluctance to part with draft picks, it speaks volumes about how the organization felt about Adams.

He played sparingly in 10 games but had two tackles and a forced fumble in the season finale at Detroit.

Adams was asked frequently over the final two months why he wasn't playing more. He was always polite and courteous and talked about the team over his personal situation.

"Really, I can't say right now that a fresh start was what I needed," Adams said the night of the trade. "I am just privileged to be a Bear. It is going to be a new start for me, and I am excited."

The team and Adams both believed working with line coach Rod Marinelli would bring out his best after two seasons with the Bucs.

As the fourth pick by Tampa Bay, he was treated there the same way Cedric Benson was in Chicago by fans disappointed with his lack of production on the field. But Adams never took any of the criticism personally, even when Bucs coach Raheem Morris said this summer he would be a bust if he didn't reach double digits in sacks.

"I still don't want to believe that it is true," Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan said of Adams' death. "I am deeply saddened that we have lost someone who I considered a friend for life. When he came to Tampa, I took Gaines under my wing. I considered him my little brother, and that's how I will always remember him. This is all so unreal."



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