Dave Dalby, a fixture on the Oakland and then Los Angeles Raiders for 14 seasons, died in a single-car accident Friday in Dana Point, where he lived. He was 51.
Authorities said Dalby's death may be alcohol-related.
Dalby, who played from 1972 through '85, was only the second starting center in franchise history, replacing Hall of Fame player Jim Otto, who retired in 1974. Dalby also was a member of the UCLA Hall of Fame.
The accident occurred about 12:45 p.m. in a parking lot at Palisades Drive and Pacific Coast Highway, said Orange County Sheriff spokesman Jim Amormino. He said witnesses noticed that Dalby was sitting in his parked van for some time before the car accelerated forward and struck a tree.
Paramedics had to extract Dalby from his car. He was transported to San Clemente Hospital, where he was pronounced dead within an hour, Amormino said.
The cause of death and an investigation are pending, authorities said.
Raider officials were informed of Dalby's death late Friday afternoon and were in the process of informing their former and current players.
"He was a good friend, and a lot of players stayed in touch with him constantly," Raider executive Bruce Allen said. "The organization has lost a good friend."
Dalby maintained a Raider Web site and frequently attended games. In the final season of his playing career, he was replaced by Don Mosebar, a first-round pick from USC who switched from guard to center in 1984.
"Dave and I were always very close," said Otto, who is suffering from prostate cancer. "I just talked to him on Tuesday. He said, 'I'll just come up [to Auburn] and spend some time with you.' You just wonder what's going to happen next."
Said Mosebar: "Dave gave everything he had for the team. He helped me out--some young guy who came in to take his job--but he never worried about that. He was all about the team."
Sam Farmer and Vivian Letran