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Brian Sipe, a 13th-round draft pick who survived 12...

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brian Sipe, a 13th-round draft pick who survived 12 NFL seasons to star with the Cleveland Browns, said his goodbyes in Ohio Tuesday morning and was introduced as the newest member of the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League.

Although not announced, Sipe reportedly signed a 3-year contract worth $600,000 annually.

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Sipe, who was taxied the first two seasons in Cleveland, just missed leading the Browns to an AFC playoff berth this year as Cleveland finished 9-7 with Sipe passing for 3,566 yards and 26 touchdowns, although he was intercepted 23 times.

Sipe, nattily dressed although without a tie, was greeted by Generals' owner Donald Trump and new coach Walt Michaels as well as 10-year offensive lineman Dave Rapham, who came over from the Cincinnati Bengals.

'I signed on Nov. 22, but the final technicalities weren't worked out until last week,' Sipe said. 'I have nothing but good feelings for my 12 years in Cleveland, but it's time to move on to what I hope are better things. I am a (Southern) California native and I learned a lot in Cleveland. I owe them. But I feel they gambled and lost when they did not offer me a contract.

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'The Browns knew that this was the last year of my contract. They knew I had a good offer on the table although they never learned the full details. I think I fooled them in the summer when I played so well that it ended any discussion of Paul McDonald's being No. 1. As I said, they gambled and in my opinion lost.'

Trump, preening over his latest NFL acquisitions after the signing of All-Pro safety Gary Barbaro, said, 'To compare Paul McDonald to Brian Sipe is ridiculous. They tried to go with Paul McDonald but had to go with Brian in the final game, which they won. Against Pittsburgh, McDonald got to play one play when Brian was shaken up. Sipe was their quarterback of choice.'

Michaels, who resigned under pressure from the New York Jets after leading them to the AFC title game last year, welcomed Sipe aboard.

'There is never any problem with having good football players,' he said. 'Brian Sipe and Herschel Walker (the Generals' star back who led the USFL in rushing) will get along fine. You might go with the one who is hotter on any given day. I'm glad to have both of them.'

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In an earlier news conference in Cleveland, Sipe said that he had often experienced 'euphoria' while playing for the Browns but that after 12 years with one team, he needed a new challenge.

'I feel I'm in my prime,' said the 34-year-old 1980 AFC Player of the Year. 'I feel I'm capable, physically and mentally, to play football. If they (the Browns) felt that I've exhausted my potential, then that would be a mistake.

'It's going to be easy for people to say I left because of the money. The money forced me to take a good hard look at my present position with the Browns. The first time I heard from the Browns regarding my contract was after the first contact from New Jersey. I think that should tell you something.

'I walked into Cleveland Stadium 12 years ago in February. I felt goosebumps, and it wasn't because of the cold. It was clear to me that this was a special stadium. Cleveland is a unique sports town.'

Sipe came to Cleveland from San Diego State in 1972. His best season was 1980, when he led all NFL passers with a 91.4 rating. He finished his Browns' career with 1,944 completions for 23,713 yards, 23rd on the NFL's all-time yardage list.

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McDonald, a fellow Southern Californian, has spent four years in Sipe's shadow. At the end of this season he signed a series of 1-year contracts binding him to the Browns through 1986.

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