Longtime ESPN journalist, NFL reporter Chris Mortensen dies at 72

Chris Mortensen was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, and he announced his retirement from the network last year

Longtime NFL reporter and ESPN journalist Chris Mortensen died on Sunday morning, the network announced. He was 72.

Specifics of his death are not yet known, though Mortensen had been battling cancer for years.

“Mort was widely respected as an industry pioneer and universally beloved as a supportive, hard-working teammate,” ESPN chairman 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.”

ESPN announced the news on-air on Sunday afternoon, too, and the NFL Network ended it's coverage of the NFL scouting combine by paying tribute to Mortensen.

Mortensen first joined ESPN in 1991, and quickly became one of the top NFL reporters in the country. He was a regular on the network’s top shows and frequently broke some of the biggest news across the league — including in 2016, when he revealed that longtime quarterback and Hall of Famer Peyton Manning was retiring.

Mortensen, who also worked at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The National before joining ESPN, stepped away briefly in 2016 after he revealed that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer. He eventually returned and made television appearances on ESPN again, but his role was revised in 2019 so he could focus more on breaking news.

Mortensen then announced last year that, after the 2023 NFL Draft, he was retiring so he could focus on his “health, family and faith.”

Mortensen also spent time as a columnist for The Sporting News, was a contributor to Sport magazine and worked as a consultant with CBS Sports' "NFL Today." He began his career at the South Bay Daily Breeze in California in 1969. Mortensen won 18 total awards and was nominated for two Pulitzer Prizes throughout his journalism career.

Plenty of his former colleagues, friends and others, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, took to social media to pay their respects after the news was announced on Sunday.