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Chris Mortensen, ESPN NFL Reporter, Dead at 72

Chris Mortensen, ESPN’s longtime NFL reporter, has died. He was 72.

The network confirmed the news of Mortensen’s death in a post on X:

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“Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hardworking teammate,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro wrote in a statement Sunday. “He covered the NFL with extraordinary skill and passion, and was at the top of his field for decades. He will truly be missed by colleagues and fans, and our hearts and thoughts are with his loved ones.”

A cause of death has not been disclosed.

In 2016, Mortensen announced that he would be stepping away from TV amid a battle with Stage IV throat cancer. He eventually returned to ESPN, but exited in September 2023 to focus on his “health, family and faith…. It’s not a classic retirement,” he said. “I’ll still be here talking ball. It’s just time.”

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Mortensen first appeared on ESPN in 1991, serving as analyst for ESPN’s coverage of the NFL draft in 1991 and 1992. He frequently reported on Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday NFL Countdown, SportsCenter and ESPN Radio. He also appeared on NFL GameDay and Outside the Lines.

In 1991, he wrote Playing for Keeps: How One Man Kept the Mob from Sinking Its Hooks into Pro Football, a book examining the dark side of college sports including money laundering, gambling and game fixing.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Mortensen received 18 awards in journalism and was nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes. He got his start at California’s South Bay Daily Breeze in 1969.

Watch ESPN’s on-air announcement below:

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