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When will Dalvin Cook return? Rookie Ezra Cleveland should make NFL debut on Sunday

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Minnesota Vikings’ Dalvin Cook (33) rushes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

The Vikings’ final injury report of the week had no surprises on it as running back Dalvin Cook (groin) and right guard Dru Samia (wrist) were both declared out for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Cook, who leads the NFL in rushing yards, will be replaced by Alexander Mattison. The question is how long Cook will be sidelined? He was injured in the third quarter of last Sunday’s loss in Seattle. Cook attempted to return for one play but was clearly hobbled and sat out the rest of the game. The Vikings will have their bye week after facing the Falcons and return to play on Nov. 1 in Green Bay.

But will Cook be available for that game? Cook is no stranger to injuries in his three-plus seasons — he will have missed 20 of 54 regular-season games when he sits out Sunday — and a groin injury isn’t something from which a player is going to be rushed back. That means that despite Cook’s value to the team, he could miss multiple games.

The Vikings have a difficult decision to make because 2020 is shaping up as a lost year and with Cook having signed a five-year, $63 million extension just before the season, Minnesota could want to protect its investment for 2021.

Samia, meanwhile, turned up on the injury report on Thursday after struggling as the replacement for the injured Pat Elflein at right guard. The Vikings aren’t going to say how they will replace Samia, but odds are good that Dakota Dozier will slide from left to right guard and second-round pick Ezra Cleveland will make his NFL debut at left guard. Cleveland was drafted as the long-term replacement for left tackle Riley Reiff, but that move is expected to come next season.