ESPN NFL reporter Chris Mortensen dead at 72


Chris Mortensen, the legendary ESPN NFL reporter, died Sunday morning, the network announced. He was 72. 

“Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hard-working teammate,” ESPN Chair Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. “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.”

Mortensen stepped away from his longtime role with ESPN after the 2023 NFL Draft, announcing that he needed to prioritize his health and family. 


Chris Mortensen in 2006

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, right, is shown on the ESPN set with Chris Mortensen at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2006. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

“Excited about another season but it’s time to reveal after my 33rd NFL draft in April, I made a decision to step away from ESPN and focus on my health, family and faith,” Mortensen tweeted in September 2023.

On Jan. 15, 2016, Mortensen revealed via an ESPN statement that he was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer, which led to a leave of absence.


Lauded as the worldwide leader’s original NFL insider, Mortensen spent almost all of his journalism career at ESPN, joining their ranks in 1991 when he reported for “NFL GameDay,” which eventually became today’s “Sunday NFL Countdown.” He was also featured on “Outside The Lines” and served as an analyst for the NFL Draft.

Mortensen’s journalism career began at the Daily Breeze in Torrance, California, his hometown. He eventually moved on to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he covered multiple sports with MLB’s Atlanta Braves (1983-1985) as well as the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons (1985-1986). He eventually covered the NFL as a whole, starting in 1987, where he earned the George Polk Award for his work.

Mortensen then joined The National, where he covered the league for two years before making the leap to ESPN. 

The veteran reporter was infamously known to be the one who broke the news of the New England Patriots’ “Deflategate” controversy, initially reporting that 11 of the 12 footballs used during the team’s AFC Championship Game matchup in 2015 against the Indianapolis Colts were under 2 pounds per square inch, which is the NFL’s regulation.

Chris Mortensen talks into microphone

Chris Mortensen is shown during the Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and Seahawks in Seattle on Nov. 27, 2006. (Kirby Lee/NFLPhotoLibrary)

The Wells Report would later find that only one of the 22 readings made in the investigation of the Patriots found the Patriots’ footballs to be under 2 pounds per square inch. Mortensen’s report was debunked, yet ESPN left it up without any retraction or clarification.

Mortensen deleted his post on Twitter months later, though he continued to stand by his report. 

Mortensen’s loss shocked many in the NFL world, including his colleague at ESPN, Mike Greenberg. 

“Chris Mortensen was one of the kindest, most generous gentlemen you could ever come across, in any field,” Greenberg tweeted. “His professionalism and decency earned him universal admiration – his enthusiasm and good nature made him everyone’s friend. His mark on the business will last a long time, his impact on those of us lucky enough to know him well will last the rest of our lives. Rest in peace, Mort. We will treasure your memory forever.”

Fellow ESPN colleague Mike Tannenbaum also shared his condolences.

Chris Mortensen looks on field

Chris Mortensen (Kevin C. Cox/AAF/Getty Images/File)


“I’m absolutely devastated to hear about the passing of Chris Mortensen,” he posted on X. “While he was a titan and a pioneer in our profession, he was also the kindest and most generous person to me. He was a mentor to some many of us at ESPN. He will be missed, but his legacy of kindness and giving will remain with us. Rest in peace my friend.”

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