Gaines Adams, a defensive end who played for the Bucs and Bears, died yesterday morning after going into cardiac arrest. He was 26.

The fourth pick of the 2007 draft out of Clemson, Adams passed away at Self Regional Hospital in Greenwood, South Carolina — his home town. An autopsy showed he had an enlarged heart. Drugs were not believed to be a factor in his death.

Adams played 2 1/2 seasons with the Bucs — amassing a disappointing 13.5 sacks in that time — before being traded to the Bears, who he was with the final 11 games of this season, for a 2010 draft pick.

Said Bucs center Jeff Faine to the St. Petersburg Times: "Gaines was a great teammate and an even better friend. He had a great sense of humor and would go out of his way to help people and befriend people. I am honored to have been able to know him and to have been his teammate. A truly bright soul."

Adams, the defensive player of the year in the ACC in 2006, is survived by his parents, Gaines III and Linda, who attended nearly every one of their son's games both home and away.

"He was a terrific young man," NFL commissioner Goodell told reporters in San Diego. "I met him at the draft when he came in, and he stood out. He was a very caring individual. … 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' death is the ninth in the NFL since 2007. Darrent Williams, Sean Taylor and Steve McNair were all shot, Damien Nash collpased during a charity basketball game, Marquise Hill drowned in a jet skiing accident, Corey Smith and Marquis Cooper drowned in a boating accident in the Gulf of Mexico, and Chris Henry passed away from head trauma when he jumped off the back of a truck driven by his fiancee.

Here is some more reaction from people who knew Adams...

Said Tommy Bowden, Adams' coach at Clemson: "I just couldn't believe it was Gaines. I will always remember the smile he had on his face and I will always remember his patience."

Said former Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who drafted Adams: "Today is a tragic day. Gaines was an impressive kid with such a tremendous future in front of him. He was a great teammate and well-liked by our coaches and all those who had the opportunity to be around him in Tampa."

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Ronde Barber, Adams' teammate in Tampa said: "Gaines was a quiet, humble kid and is far too young to be gone. He had so much potential that had yet to be achieved and I am very sad that the full extent of his life won't be realized."

"I still don't want to believe that it is true," added defensive tackle Chris Hovan. "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 and it hasn't really hit me yet."

R.I.P. Gaines.