Time to bite the bullet

TIM DAHLBERG

, Last Updated: 1:21 PM ET

LAS VEGAS -- Home right now for Tom Urbanski is a hotel room in a suburb of this gambling city.

It's not much, just one of many used mostly by businessmen and tourists in town for extended stays.

But it should be the first place Roger Goodell visits next month when he starts debating whether to allow suspended Tennessee Titan Adam "Pacman" Jones to play in the NFL again.

He'll find Urbanski in his ground-floor room in a wheelchair, all 6-foot-6 and 285 lbs. of him. He'll be able to see what a bullet did to the real estate salesman and club manager whose phone message still tells callers they've reached their "Real Estate Bodyguard."

And he can decide for himself what kind of man he wants playing in the league he is charged with protecting.

Maybe then the odds will drop on Jones playing, to, say, 3-6% -- the same odds Urbanski is given of ever walking again.

"I've got about a two-year window for that to happen," Urbanski says.

Urbanski is beginning to come to terms with the stark reality of his future, which changed tragically in the early morning hours of Feb. 19 at a strip club not far from Las Vegas' glittering casinos. He's got no real choice because every morning he wakes up needing help to take care of things we take for granted, like being able to dress ourselves or shave.

Urbanski had been working as a manager at the Minxx Gentleman's Club for less than three weeks, taking the second job so his wife could quit her teaching job and go to law school.

At the club, Pacman's posse was with him, including a guy in a baggy black T-shirt and blue jeans who sat next to him. Things got nasty when Jones showered dancers with handfuls of bills, called "making it rain."

TORE INTO HIS SPINE

Two dancers began fighting over the money, and Jones allegedly punched one. Police said he then tried to hit club staff attempting to intervene and threatened to kill them.

Jones walked away with the man who had been next to him, and police said a man wearing a baggy black T-shirt and blue jeans stood next to a palm tree and fired five or six shots. One tore into Urbanski's spine. He was paralyzed from roughly his belly button on down.

"It's going to take a little more getting used to," Urbanski says of his new reality. "But I'm really happy to be alive. I thank God for that every day."

Urbanski has sued Jones, the Titans and the NFL, claiming they're responsible for his injuries. The suit claims Jones knows the shooter and that the NFL should have disciplined him sooner.

The suit is a long shot, but so is Urbanski's chance to walk again. The NFL says it can't be held responsible, while Jones' lawyer says his client doesn't know who the gunman.

"I know he knows who the shooter is," Urbanski said. "Everybody who worked in the bar that night can tell you the shooter was sitting next to Pacman Jones all night long."

Urbanski is at the hotel while his home is being remodelled for a wheelchair. He has a part-time attendant to help care for him, and his wife, Kathy, is always there.

Jones, meanwhile, wants to play football again, and plans to meet with Goodell later this month to try and have his suspension cut to 10 games so he can play this year.

The first condition of his return should be that he tells everything he knows about that night, and everything about the man in the baggy black T-shirt. Failing that, he should play again in the NFL about the same time Tommy Urbanski walks again.


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