FOXBORO (CBS) — Ernie Adams did a little bit of everything to help the New England Patriots win a ridiculous amount of football games over the last two decades, though no one ever really knew exactly what Bill Belichick’s right hand man did behind the scenes. Even as he gets set to retire, Adams is keeping the finer details of his role with the franchise a secret.

As the Patriots get set to wrap up the team’s mandatory minicamp in Foxboro on Wednesday, Belichick took time to honor Adams, who is retiring at the age of 68. Wednesday marks Adams’ final practice with the Patriots before he begins his life after football.

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“Ernie has had such a big impact on our success here with the Patriots in so many different ways,” Belichick said Wednesday. “From his organization with Scott [Pioli] and the personnel department and grading scale and so forth, to strategy, coaching, game-planning in all three phases – offense, defense and special teams — to team building and acquisitions.

“I’ve leaned heavily on Ernie for 21 years here and going back to Cleveland and New York. Our relationships started at Andover over 50 years ago. He’s been a great friend and a great asset to this organization and to me personally,” added Belichick. “His passion for football is second to none.”

Belichick first met Adams when they were both at Phillips Academy in Andover, and Adams revealed that he loved Steve Belichick’s (Bill’s dad) book on football scouting. That was the beginning of their relationship, and the two connected in the NFL in New York in 1979. When Belichick moved on to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns and then the Patriots, he was always quick to add Adams to his staff. His official title was “football research director.”

For those wondering what Adams did for Belichick and the Patriots, the answer is simple: A lot. While he may have been deep behind the scenes, Adams’ fingerprints are all over New England’s six Super Bowl titles.

“Basically, my job is to figure out as many things as I can to help the New England Patriots win football games. In the end, that’s what we’re all about here and that’s what we do, whether it’s strategy, personnel or anything else,” Adams explained Wednesday. “The thing that has been great about my job is I’ve never had any constraints put on me and could go in any direction that could help us. Hopefully I made some positive contributions.”

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While many saw Adams as a fascinating “Man of Mystery,” he never saw himself that way. Everyone inside the Patriots organization knew what he did, and they all appreciated the endless hours of work he put in to make the Patriots franchise the best that it could be. It led to an incredible 21-year run with the team.

“If you told me when we started it would be 21 seasons with nine Super Bowls, I’m not sure I would have believed you,” Adams said Wednesday. “We just grind it out each day at a time. I always told people that I have a real hard life; I live where I want to live and we win a lot of football games. It’s hard to beat that.”

One thing Adams would not reveal is the meaning behind the famous phrase “Pink Stripes,” which was written on a whiteboard behind him during the 2015 NFL Films special Do Your Job.

“It’s strictly an inside joke and proprietary football information,” he joked.

The Patriots are losing a walking encyclopedia in their operation, but Belichick was quick to say that Adams will always be welcome inside Gillette Stadium. And just because he’s retiring doesn’t mean that Adams isn’t open to the occasional project for Belichick.

“Bill has all my contact information,” said Adams.

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Following Wednesday’s practice session in Foxboro, the Patriots gathered as a team on the field and were addressed by Adams. His messages to players was to be ready to be the best that they can be when training camp starts next month. Staff