From what the Steelers' offensive coordinator had heard, Adams was not a hard worker, not an "into it" kind of player.
"I don't know if I've ever had a worse M.O. in a guy," Arians said. "Having watched Flozell play all those years, I had the total wrong perception. Great guy. One of the hardest-working guys I've ever been around."
For a large segment of Cowboys fans that probably comes as a surprise.
Adams' return to the Dallas area for Super Bowl XLV with Pittsburgh this week after 12 seasons with the Cowboys has been met mostly with apathy or, by some, even with disdain.
He never played in a Super Bowl to earn the credibility that comes with a ring. Heck, the Cowboys won only one playoff game in Adams' tenure, and that came in the 2009 season, his last with the team. He does not possess an outgoing personality, but that should not matter.
He played every week. He played through injuries. From 1999 to 2009, he started every game he played. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament in 2005 and returned to make the Pro Bowl the next three seasons.
The only tackle in Cowboys history with more Pro Bowl appearances than Adams' five is Hall of Famer Rayfield Wright, who played in six. You can debate the worthiness of some of those Pro Bowl appearances, but he earned the vote of his peers and coaches to make the game.
To see what Adams means to his new teammates, the Steelers' offensive linemen wore throwback Michigan State jerseys in his honor as they got off the plane Monday.
To see what he meant to his old teammates, you should know he received text messages from Marc Colombo, Kyle Kosier, Doug Free, Andre Gurode, DeMarcus Ware and Leonard Davis after the Steelers beat the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game.
And yet Adams is remembered here mostly for his false starts.
"I'll stick up for him on that," Colombo said. "Being an offensive tackle, the guys we go against are unbelievable athletes. If you wait a split second before the quarterback gets the ball, you're going to lose. For a lot of years he shut down some of the best defensive ends in the game."
Former Cowboys offensive line coach Tony Sparano, now the Miami Dolphins head coach, said he would happily live with a false start or two if it meant the quarterback wasn't getting sacked.
"I look at my time in Dallas as great," Adams said. "Twelve years with an organization, you can't help but appreciate that. A lot of guys, if they last 12 years they've been with three or four teams. I relished being in the organization. The Pro Bowls, things like that didn't matter. They just happened, but I was happy to be a part of it."
The Cowboys decided to part ways with Adams last April. They wanted to give Free the left tackle job after he played so well in Colombo's absence in 2009 at right tackle. Adams' price tag, age and rickety knees also played into the decision.
"Whether you're a rookie or an old veteran, it's gonna happen," Adams said.
Training camp was a few days old when the Steelers signed Adams to play right tackle. He played there some in Pro Bowls, but it took some adjusting.
"All I can compare it to is if you write right-handed and you try to write left-handed," Adams said.
He called Colombo for some pointers. He put in time on his own after practice, working on his pass sets. When he struggled in a preseason game, he had defensive backs do some pass-rush moves against him because they're faster than defensive ends and linebackers.
"He must've practiced that for eight straight days to make sure he was setting properly against speed," Arians said. "He was going to be a right tackle."
And now he is one win away from being a Super Bowl champion.
"It's a sweet taste," Adams said. "It was a goal of mine to make the Super Bowl no matter what team I was with. Fortunately, it's happened to me this year."
Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.