Adams still won't say what ‘Pink Stripes' means ahead of retirement

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FOXBORO -- No, Ernie Adams still isn't telling you what "Pink Stripes" means. Even if he's retiring.

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, just before the final mandatory minicamp practice for the Patriots, Bill Belichick announced that the session would be Adams' last before retirement. Belichick had announced during draft weekend that this year's draft would be the last for Adams, who was given the opportunity to make the final selection of the weekend: UCF receiver Tre Nixon.

"Just wanted to take a couple minutes if I could and just again formally recognize Ernie and the contributions that he's made to this organization, and frankly to myself and the league," Belichick said. "Ernie has had such a big impact on our success here at the Patriots."

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From contributions in the personnel department, to the grading scale used by the Patriots (and now other clubs) to evaluate players, to coaching, game-planning and in-game situational consulting for Belichick, Adams has had a hand in multiple facets of the operation in New England for decades.

"Ernie has been a great friend and a great asset to this organization and me personally," Belichick said. "I think a lot of things he's done have also been recognized by other coaches and other staffs in the league. (There are) a lot of people that are doing things that he does for different organizations. But (they) are things he really started and uncovered and showed the value of them here. But his versatility and ability to do so many different things and his passion for football is really second to none."

Belichick acknowledged that Adams has always liked to stay "behind the scenes" but added with a smile, "we're going to put him out in front for you here this morning as a special thank you to all of you who participated in this call... Give you guys a chance to fire at Ernie the way you fire away at me."

Adams arrived to the Patriots with Belichick -- with whom he's been friends since they were teenagers at Phillips Andover -- in 2000 and worked for him in the 1990s in Cleveland. He described his run in New England as "incredible."

"If you told me when we started it would be 21 seasons with nine Super Bowls, I'm not sure I would've believed you," Adams said. "But we just grinded out one day at a time. That's what it's been. I tell people I've had a really hard life. I lived in the places I wanted to live and win a lot of football games. It's hard to beat that."

Yet for as important as Adams has been to the team, many who've followed the team closely for years still can't pinpoint exactly what it is that Adams has done. He shed a little bit of light on his role as only he could.

"Basically my job is to figure out as many things as I can to help the New England Patriots win football games," Adams explained. "In the end, that's what we're all about here. That's what we do. Whether it's strategy, personnel or anything else. The thing that's been great about my job is that I've never really had any constraints put on me. I could go into any area I thought would help us and hopefully I've made some contribution."

Adams added: "I don't think I'm a man of mystery particularly inside the organization with the people I work with. I always felt the best thing you could have on a football team was to have fewer voices speaking. You get multiple voices speaking, there will inevitably be some inconsistencies (that) develop. 'He said, he said.' We tried to eliminate that, eliminate all distractions."

OK, but what about "Pink Stripes?" 

Written on a white board stationed behind Adams during an on-camera interview with NFL Films, the meaning of those two words has been shrouded in mystery. And maybe it's been better that way. The  riddle has only elevated Adams' standing in the view of many as a revered covert operative inside the offices at One Patriots Place.

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Now that Adams is retiring, though, couldn't he share what so many want to know?

"Well, you know, I go back to my Wall Street days," Adams said. "Everything we did we said was ‘proprietary trading information.’ So, I’ll leave it that’s strictly an inside joke and proprietary football information."

Adams left the call soon thereafter. His final practice as a team employee was about to get underway. Maybe he'd have a towel around his neck, as he often has over the years. Maybe not. Maybe he'd chat with Cam Newton in between reps, as he did at one point on Tuesday. Maybe he'd simply observe to provide Belichick with some helpful nugget later on. 

And that will be that. A legendary career in the books. 

Unless and until, of course, Belichick needs his friend of over 50 years for something down the line. 

"Bill has all my contact information," Adams said.  

"We'll miss him but always welcome him back," Belichick said. "Hopefully he'll come back and visit us. I'm sure he will."

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