A sign of the (L.A.) Times: There’s more from the Mort
By Tom Hoffarth
Among the things we learned with our latest check-in with ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that didn’t make it into the lead item in the latest Los Angeles Times sports media column was an exchange he said he had last weekend with Duke head coach David Cutcliffe.
Cutcliffe and Mortensen go way back. Cutcliffe was the quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning at Tennessee and Eli Manning at Ole Miss, and still believes rookie Daniel Jones will be the real deal with the New York Giants:
“I’m in Atlanta for the Alabama-Duke game — my son, Alex, is one of Nick Saban’s offensive analysts — and I know ‘Cut’ will be there. He’s a great human being. I left him a long-winded message on his cellphone telling him I was coming to the game, Alex is on the other side, maybe I could say hi before kickoff. It turns out I get to this airport hotel and there’s a big sign welcoming the Duke team. He’s staying at my same hotel. So it’s seven hours before kickoff, they’re at the morning team meal, and I got in there and spent a half hour just visiting.
“He says to me, ‘Promise me one thing, Mort. Someday, you’ll write a book with 32 chapters, and each one will be about all the things you know about that NFL team that you’ve never talked about or written about. You need to tell those stories. It’ll be a magnificent book, because every time we talk, I find out something new I never knew about.’
“The truth is, I probably on disclose about five percent of what I know,” Mortensen added. “But when you’ve been in the business 50 years, that’s a pretty big slice. It’s all relative.”
More from Mortensen:
== On learning the news of Andrew Luck’s retirement from the Indianapolis Colts from an Aug. 24 tweet by colleague Adam Schefter:
“Adam and I touch base a lot, on that day I called him and said, here’s five things we need to monitor. And Andrew Luck wasn’t one of them. I asked what he was doing, and he was in the car going to his mother-in-law’s 75th surprise birthday party. So I know he’s there.
“All of the sudden I see a notification on the news wire, based on one of Adam’s tweets. I was stunned. I was probably one of many who immediately texted him: Is this your account? Sometimes, people leave their Twitter accounts open and … I know it’s got the checkmark. He said, ‘yes’ immediately.
“It’s remarkable. We don’t disclose 99.9 percent of the time our sources to each other, but he had the courage in this instance to go with it even though there are times when you might think you need another two hours of another half day to confirm it. He nailed it. One hundred percent. I don’t know his source, but I’ll say in my time covering the NFL it was the most sudden, biggest story that shocked me. Bigger than Barry Sanders leaving Detroit.
“Breaking this on Twitter, and with Adam — I know a little more about this than I can tell you in detail — he had it, and that’s not an easy thing to go with. We have instincts about these things with our experiences. For five days, the Colts did a great job of hiding their discussions with Andrew. I’m sure Adam feels the same connection level I do with people there in the locker room, the coaching staff, and we didn’t catch a hint of it. This just shows how good Adam’s instincts are.
“I could kick myself because when he sat out the season with the shoulder injury, I knew he wanted to get away, go to Europe and hide, that’s just the kind of person he is. I guarantee if Andrew told the team after the game (about retiring) and didn’t say anything, I wouldn’t have held long. I understand fans seeing Adam’s tweet and think Andrew is just walking away from the team. You have to allow fans to have their emotional reaction. All I know is it was Andrew’s decision and our guy – my guy – Schefter made the right decision. I did not have a hand in that. Knowing Andrew’s background a little bit, maybe my antenna should have been up. But it doesn’t matter. Adam won the day. Our team won.”
== Mortensen responded a day later with this tweet:
“Steve Beuerlein, someone who was in the league 17 years and has credibility with me, says this and when I reached out to some people — retired quarterbacks, many who didn’t want to be quoted — they agreed: You don’t walk out on your team in August. Go on the IR. If you’re going to retire, do it in March. So when Steve stepped out with this and explained himself people turned on him and said: ‘You don’t think Luck is tough enough and quit on his team.’ That’s not at all what Steve said.
“The more I think about this — and I know we’ll talk more about this story in the weeks ahead — maybe he did the Colts a favor. If he’s on the IR and maybe comes off in Week 12, this could have hung over Jacoby Brissett. Maybe this wasn’t Andrew’s motivation, but the unintended consequences could work out. Everything I know is Jacoby could have handled this either way.
“The bottom line is Andrew knows his body. Just watch his press conference and you know what he said was heartfelt. There’s no denying his competitiveness and skill. I’m not sure I agree with how he did it, but he did it, it’s his life, he did it his way and I can appreciate that.”
More with Mortensen:
== Thanks to AwfulAnnouncing.com to preserving the essence of a now-deleted blog post we did with Mortensen in May, 2016, talking about his progress as well as how he would be watching the NFL draft.
== An Oct. 2016 piece by Brian Curtis of The Ringer on Mortensen’s initial cancer treatments and comeback.
== An Oct. 2017 piece by Peter King of MMQB on Mortensen’s return.