Chris Mortensen steps away from ESPN: What did Mort mean for NFL coverage?

Longtime NFL insider Chris Mortensen has stepped away from ESPN, he announced via social media Tuesday.

Mortensen, who began working for ESPN in 1991, was honored by the Professional Football Writers of America with the Dick McCann Award in 2016 placing him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Before ESPN, Mortensen served as the NFL columnist for The Sporting News and he and he contributed to Sport magazine. He covered the NFL as a reporter/columnist for The National (1989-90), where he and as a consultant with CBS Sports’ NFL Today in 1990.

Mortensen worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1983-89 as a beat writer covering the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons before becoming an NFL national writer.

What Mort meant to NFL coverage

For NFL watchers and readers of a certain age, Mortensen has been an enduring presence for multiple generations of ESPN viewers. He joined ESPN 32 years ago at a time when most sports information brokers such as Mortensen plied their trade for local newspapers.

As a senior NFL Insider, Mortensen was ubiquitous on ESPN’s programs and platforms, from Sunday NFL Countdown to SportsCenter to ESPN Radio to the NFL Draft to Super Bowl coverage to offseason features. He covered every Super Bowl since 1985 with the exception of Super Bowl 50 when he was forced to take a leave of absence after being diagnosed with Stage IV throat cancer.

Mortensen, now 71, broke many stories, infuriated some fan bases (particularly the Patriots) and was a pioneer for the industry now fronted and dominated by his colleague Adam Schefter, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and others. As he said in his post on social media, “it’s just time.” His legacy, among other things, was helping to catapult sports writers with information chops to very lucrative careers on sports television. — Deitsch

(Photo: A. Messerschmidt / Getty Images)

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