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Vikings could be without rookie guard Ezra Cleveland for second consecutive game

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Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland (72) in action in the third quarter during an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/David Berding)

The Vikings might be without right guard Ezra Cleveland for a second consecutive game on Sunday. The rookie did not practice for the second day in a row on Thursday because of an ankle injury that forced him to miss last Sunday’s loss to Dallas. Cleveland was injured early in the Vikings’ win over Chicago on Nov. 16 but remained in the game.

Tight end Irv Smith Jr., who missed the Chicago game but returned to play against Dallas, sat out practice Thursday after being limited a day earlier. Smith is dealing with back and groin injuries. Safety Harrison Smith (neck) took part in a portion of practice after missing Wednesday’s session.

If Cleveland can’t play against the Panthers, he likely again will be replaced by veteran Brett Jones. The Vikings were 3-1 with Cleveland starting at guard, including three victories in a row coming out of their bye week.