FOXBOROUGH — After the final whistle blew to cap the final practice of Patriots minicamp Wednesday, Bill Belichick called his players together for one final chat.
Strategy wasn’t on the itinerary; this meeting was a time for a farewell tribute to Ernie Adams, the club’s team’s longtime director of football research and perhaps the closest of Belichick’s confidants.
“Ernie, where you at?” a player yelled out before the man with eight Super Bowl rings was feted with a rendition of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”
It was a fitting swan song for a man whose roots with Belichick go back to Phillips Academy in Andover and whose roots in the Patriots organization date to 1975 when he started as an assistant on Chuck Fairbanks’s staff.
“Ernie’s had such a big impact on our success here with the Patriots in so many different ways,” said Belichick, “from his organization with Scott [Pioli] in the personnel department and the grading scale and so forth to strategic coaching, situationally, game-planning in all three phases of the game — offense, defense, special teams — team building, personnel acquisition, and so forth.
“I’ve leaned heavily on Ernie for 21 years here, and going back to Cleveland and New York, and our relationship which started at Andover over 50 years ago. Ernie’s been a great friend.’'
With a hand in nearly every facet of the operation, Adams was an invaluable resource for players, coaches, and executives.
“Basically, my job is to figure out as many things as I can to help the New England Patriots win football games,” Adams said in a rare meeting with the media. “In the end, that’s what we’re all about here. That’s what we do.
“So whether it’s strategy, personnel, or anything else, the thing that’s been great about my job is I’ve never really had any constraints put on me. I could go in any area I thought would help us, and hopefully I’ve made some positive contribution.”
Often called “a man of mystery” around the team, league, and in the media, Adams understands the label even if he doesn’t agree with it
“Well, I don’t think I’m a man of mystery,” he said, “particularly inside the organization with the people I work with, and I’ve always felt that the best thing you can have on a football team is to have fewer voices speaking, because if you get multiple voices speaking, there’ll be inevitably some inconsistencies develop and then there’ll be a what he said, what he said. We’ve just tried to eliminate all the distractions.”
Adams, who smiled through much of his Q&A session, declined to shed light on the “Pink Stripes” story. Those words were spotted on the whiteboard behind his desk while he was being interviewed for the “Do Your Job” documentary in 2015.
“Well, you know, I go back to my Wall Street days,” he 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.”
After six Super Bowl titles in 21 years with the Patriots — a run Adams called “incredible” — will he still be involved in the organization?
“Bill has all my contact information,” he beamed.
No sign of them
The same five players were absent Wednesday: cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive linemen Chase Winovich, Byron Cowart, and Rashod Berry, and linebacker Terez Hall. Tight end Jonnu Smith, who tweaked his hamstring Monday, was mostly a spectator but did walk through some routes with tight ends coach Nick Caley late in the session. Several other players left after stretching to do work on a side field.
▪ Cam Newton had his best day of camp, completing 17 of 21 passes during competitive periods. After some wobbly warmup throws, he delivered nice, tight spirals with good velocity. He threw mostly short and intermediate crisp balls. His lone real deep throw (to Gunner Olszewski) was broken up by J.C Jackson.
▪ Mac Jones hit on just 11 of 20 throws, but there are caveats. The rookie was victimized by three drops, one possible completion was prevented by a cornerback hold (D’Angelo Ross on Olszewski), and two incompletions were deep shots during a late two-minute drill. Jones’s best pass was a thread-the-needle end zone connection to Kristian Wilkerson. His final pass was picked off by safety Adrian Colbert.
▪ Jarrett Stidham was 10 of 14, with most of his reps coming late. He was picked off by Justin Bethel on a sideline pass intended for Marvin Hall. Stidham hit Devin Ross with a deep pass that elicited a big reaction from Newton, who gave his fellow Auburn pal a flying body bump. Brian Hoyer was 2 of 3.
▪ Nelson Agholor had his ankle looked at by the medical staff and sat out the team drills.
▪ After a lethargic start to the session, an assistant bellowed, “We’re walking too much. We’re done walking!” The pace soon quickened.
▪ Christian Barmore tipped a Jones pass at the line of scrimmage. Not sure if Nick Saban felt a disturbance in the force on that one.
▪ Kyle Dugger had a breakup on a Newton pass intended for Matt LaCosse.
▪ Josh Uche has been an absolute terror off the edge this week and would have registered at least one sack (on Jones) for the third straight day. Davon Godchaux also had a sack (also on Jones).
▪ Owner Robert Kraft came up late in the day and had an extended chat with Belichick.
▪ It was a classic rock finish to the spring practices, with Ozzy Osbourne (“Crazy Train”), The Who (“Baba O’Riley”), Guns N’ Roses (“Welcome to the Jungle”), AC/DC (“For Those About to Rock”), Bon Jovi (“Livin’ on a Prayer”), and Bruce Springsteen (“Born to Run”) among the selections.
▪ The next full team workout will come next month at training camp.