By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Ernie Adams was an important part of the Patriots for 21 years. But nobody really knows what he did.

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That’s of course by design, as Bill Belichick tends to keep information private if there’s no requirement to publicize it. So the behind-the-scenes work of Adams has always been a source of great intrigue — even for players on the team.

“Ernie’s kind of like a mysterious, like, mythical creature in the building when you come in like as a rookie,” captain David Andrews said Tuesday. “My rookie year was just after they did the big documentary [‘Do Your Job’] on the 2014 season, and that was kind of like the first thing I remember about Ernie Adams — that documentary and him in his office talking about the Malcolm Butler play. And you know it was just kind of like … what does this guy really do? And then he kind of became like an internet sensation, and the ‘pink stripes’ thing or whatever.”

With Adams now retiring after a long career working alongside Belichick, Andrews shared an interesting story that explained at least a small part of what Adams did for the Patriots.

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“Kind of one of my first interactions, I remember I fumbled a snap in the spring or training camp — something early. We were kind of running a guard pull play. And, you know, Bill obviously didn’t like that very much, and I ended up running a lap,” Andrews said. “But then Ernie after practice at some point pulled me [aside] to talk to me. He was just talking about how that’s one of the harder snaps because the quarterback’s pulling away in the opposite direction for the handoff, and you’re going flat down the line to try to cut somebody off in a penetrating position, so he just talked to me about that. And then ever since then I was kind of was like, ‘Wow, all right.'”

Adams wasn’t quite a coach, and he wasn’t quite a front office executive. He studied film, studied opponents, offered tips to players and coaches, helped Belichick on replay reviews, and did probably many more tasks that we’ll never know. But his intricate knowledge of snapping in different situations and being able to communicate with a professional lineman on the matter offers a glimpse of his wide range of expertise.

Adams has been with the Patriots since 2000, in his second go-round with the team. Andrews said that his absence will certainly be noticed.

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“I always made an effort to talk to Ernie when he was in the building or passed him in the building,” Andrews said. “About rules, whatever it may be. He’s just, he’s like an encyclopedia. So Ernie will definitely be missed around the building, that’s for sure.”