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Death of ex-Falcon Claridge ruled accidental

LAS VEGAS (May 9, 2006) -- Former NFL lineman Travis Claridge had an intoxicating level of a painkiller in his system and an enlarged heart when he died accidentally in February, the coroner's office said.

He played for Southern California and the Atlanta Falcons before joining the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League last year.

The 27-year-old player died of acute pneumonia, Clark County coroner's office spokeswoman Samantha Charles said. She added that drug intoxication and Claridge's heart condition were "significant" factors in his death.

The painkiller was oxycodone, an addictive substance that can depress the respiratory system while producing euphoria similar to narcotics like morphine and heroin.

Claridge was pronounced dead Feb. 28 at a hospital in Henderson after his girlfriend found him unconscious at his home in Las Vegas, authorities said.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder was voted the Pac-10's top offensive lineman in 1999. He was drafted in the second round by the Falcons in 2000 and started 27 games over the next two seasons but limited to six starts in 2003 because of a knee injury. The Falcons didn't re-sign him after the 2003 season.

He signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2004 as a free agent, but was cut during training camp. Claridge joined the Tiger-Cats in 2005, working his way into the starting lineup before a shoulder injury cut short his season.

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