PRO FOOTBALL

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP)The Denver Broncos fired first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett with two games left in the season.

Team owner and CEO Greg Penner said he’ll lead the search for a new coach with assistance from general manager George Paton, in whom he expressed confidence while announcing Hackett’s dismissal.

The move came one day after an embarrassing 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams dropped the Broncos to 4-11.

Firing Hackett with two games left in a lost season allows Penner to begin his search for a replacement immediately.

Players were told during a team meeting that senior assistant coach Jerry Rosburg, who was hired by Hackett in September to help him with game operations and clock management, will serve as interim head coach.

The Broncos scheduled a news conference for Tuesday to discuss the changes.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) – Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has returned to the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Tagovailoa was experiencing symptoms when he met with team doctors, though Miami coach Mike McDaniel said it’s unclear if Tagovailoa was concussed in Sunday’s 26-20 loss to Green Bay.

He appeared to bang his head on the ground when he was tackled in the second quarter against the Packers, but he never left the game and was not evaluated for a concussion.

The concussion protocol is enacted whenever a player reports concussion-related symptoms, even if he isn’t certain to have a concussion.

There is no set timetable for exiting the protocol, so Tagovailoa could potentially play in Sunday’s pivotal game at New England if he advances through the NFL’s five-step process and is cleared.

Teddy Bridgewater will practice this week with the first team, but McDaniel said it is too early to name a starter for Week 17.

NEW YORK (AP) – Broncos linebacker Randy Gregory and Rams offensive lineman Oday Aboushi were each suspended one game for exchanging punches following Los Angeles’ 51-14 win over Denver on Sunday.

NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan issued the suspensions for violations of unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness rules.”

Gregory will miss the Broncos’ game at Kansas City on Sunday, and Aboushi is to sit out the Rams’ game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Aboushi and the Rams will appeal his suspension, coach Sean McVay said.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The Carolina Panthers have signed 35-year-old cornerback Josh Norman to the practice squad because starter Jaycee Horn’s status for Sunday’s crucial game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is up in the air.

Horn broke his left wrist in Carolina’s 37-23 win over the Detroit Lions on Saturday and will have surgery Tuesday, interim coach Steve Wilks said. Wilks said it has yet to be determined if Horn will be able to play with a club on his arm or if he is done for the remainder of the season.

The Panthers signed Norman, who used to play for Carolina, to the practice squad with the intention of him playing Sunday against the Bucs. If Horn is out, Norman will back up Keith Taylor at cornerback.

BASEBALL

HAVANA (AP) – The United States will permit Major League Baseball players from Cuba to represent their home country in the World Baseball Classic next year.

The decision announced Saturday in a news release by the Baseball Federation of Cuba (FCB) could be a big step in once again turning Cuba’s national team into heavy hitters on an international stage.

Major League Baseball confirmed the U.S. granted the license to FCB. It clears the way for MLB stars such as Jose Abreu, Yordan Alvarez, Randy Arozarena, Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert to play for Cuba in the WBC in March if they choose to accept a potential invitation.

It’s up to each country’s national governing body to pick the players on its WBC team. Final 30-man rosters are due Feb. 7 for the WBC, which begins March 8 with Cuba facing the Netherlands in Taiwan.

HOCKEY

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) – The Sabres’ game at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday was postponed by the NHL because Buffalo International Airport remains closed due to a severe winter storm that has paralyzed the region.

A makeup date has yet to be determined.

A travel ban is in place in Buffalo, and the airport won’t open until at least Wednesday morning as a result of a storm that’s dumped close to 50 inches of snow on the area since Friday. The Sabres were scheduled to travel to Columbus on Tuesday morning following the NHL’s mandatory Christmas break, which runs through Monday night.

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) – Jaroslav Chmelar and Matous Mensik scored 33 seconds apart during a five-minute power play as the Czech Republic stunned defending champion Canada 5-2 in the opener for both countries at the world junior hockey championship.

In other games, the United States beat Latvia 5-2; Switzerland surprised Finland 3-2 in overtime; and Sweden routed Austria 11-0.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

DETROIT (AP) – Diego Pavia threw for 167 yards and two touchdowns, and New Mexico State held off a late rally by Bowling Green to win the Quick Lane Bowl 24-19. Aggies coach Jerry Kill earned his first victory in six bowl appearances.