The joke at the New Jersey Generals' U.S. Football League training camp is that Doug Flutie is growing on them.

Many of the Generals were still trying to absorb the news that veteran quarterback Brian Sipe has been traded and that Flutie, a 5-foot-9 3/4 rookie, is their new quarterback.

Flutie signed a contract Monday, arrived in camp Tuesday night and had a polite first practice with Sipe on Wednesday, unaware that a deal was in the making. He learned of Sipe's trade to Jacksonville while he was doing a live television interview and spent the rest of the evening locked in meetings or in his room.

"My initial reaction was that I was very shocked," Flutie said today during an informal press conference poolside at the team hotel. "I didn't anticipate this at all. My attitude coming in was just to do the best I could. I thought I would be in a competitive situation (with Sipe). There was no animosity between us on the first day, everything seemed to go well. Then this popped up."

Flutie, who didn't even receive his own equipment until this afternoon, still has not been officially informed that he is the starting quarterback. "My impression is that I'm the No. 1," he said. "But nobody has told me that."

Flutie will not make an appearance in the Generals' exhibition game Saturday against Tampa, according to Coach Walt Michaels. Instead, his debut will come Feb. 15 in the last exhibition game against Orlando. Flutie says he'd like to play right away.

"I want to get in," he said. "I'd love to play, whether I'm ready or not. That's the question -- should I jump in and maybe make a fool out of myself or not. Everybody who knows me in Boston will tell you that I like to have everything thrown at me at once, and then I see what I can do."

Flutie said he was dismayed at the way his promotion came about.

"This is not the way I would have liked to get it," he said. "It was a real introduction to pro football. I would have preferred to earn it."

Today, he spent a good bit of time studying defensive reads. He has impressed the Generals with his quick release and strong arm.

"It's a matter of adjusting to Doug," said tight end Jeff Spek. "He likes to hit you quick off your break. He's the kind of guy that you have to keep your hands up for all the time. With Brian you could be a little lazy and take your time."

"I was surprised it happened so fast, but I'm glad," said Ron Reeves, competing with Gene Bradley for the backup quarterback job. "If both of them were here, I wouldn't have had much of a chance. With one of them gone, that's an extra job."