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Ex-Ravens offensive lineman Ryan Jensen diagnosed with, treated for severe sleep apnea

Offensive lineman Ryan Jensen hadn't felt like his normal self for a long time.

He was visibly groggy from a lack of sleep. He was more irritable than usual. And he didn't feel as energetic as he needed to be on the Ravens' practice field.

It turned out there was a reason why. Jensen recently was diagnosed with and treated for severe sleep apnea, a life-threatening disorder when left untreated. It also might have played a role in Jensen's being cut by the Ravens on Saturday after a preseason performance the 2013 sixth-round draft pick from Colorado State-Pueblo wasn't pleased with.

Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman Reggie White died Dec. 26, 2004, from what North Carolina coroners ultimately determined was a fatal cardiac arrhythmia likely resulting from sleep apnea.

"It could have been a disaster, as far as me having the sleep apnea and not knowing," Jensen told The Baltimore Sun on Saturday morning in a telephone interview, after being released from the roster, one day before he would sign with the Ravens' practice squad. "It's a rough thing. Reggie White died in the middle of the night. It could have been catastrophic. It's a dangerous thing if you don't get diagnosed."

A few weeks ago, Jensen met with Ravens director of player development Harry Swayne at team headquarters to talk about how he was doing. Swayne was worried about him.

"Harry was concerned about me," Jensen said. "He spoke to me and said, 'You're not the same guy. You seem really angry. What's going on with you?' He reached out to help me and was worried. He suggested I get checked out. He's a good guy."

Jensen underwent a sleep study that determined that the disorder was keeping him from breathing for as long as 35 seconds at some points. He now uses a apparatus to help him breathe normally at bedtime.

"I've been told I choke and stop breathing in my sleep," Jensen said. "That's not good for your heart. In the sleep apnea test they did, I woke up almost 28 times per hour and have about 90 breathing episodes a night. They said that was probably a mild night for me. They estimated I was getting two to three hours of sleep a night. They saved my life.

"I would get eight hours of sleep and I would feel like I didn't get any sleep. It got to the point where I was walking around like a zombie. I didn't have that same fire because of my lack of sleep. It affected me. I'm just glad I got it figured out. I got diagnosed and got treated for it. The Ravens were understanding about it when we talked about it."

Jensen is expected to resume his NFL career. He says he's feeling much better and looks forward to his future in the league.

"I feel like I'm getting back to the normal Ryan Jensen," Jensen said. "The plan is for me to play."

awilson@baltsun.com

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