Browns coach Hue Jackson can embrace Ohio State standout safety Malik Hooker again.



Jackson was photographed shaking Hooker’s hand and wrapping his left arm around the prospect’s shoulder March 23 as they chatted during Ohio State’s pro day in Columbus. The image circulated on Twitter and excited Browns fans who know how well Hooker played for the Buckeyes during his lone season as a starter.



Hooker, a native of New Castle, Pa., revealed Thursday during an interview on ESPN Cleveland WKNR (850-AM) that he’s paying a pre-draft visit to Browns headquarters in Berea.



“I’m driving down to Cleveland today to meet with the Browns today and tomorrow for a team visit,” Hooker said. “I’m driving down there today, and I’ll be down there till tomorrow afternoon.”



Asked if he gets the feeling the Browns really like him, Hooker said, “I definitely do get that feeling.”



The Browns are expected to draft Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett first overall. They could target a quarterback with their second first-round pick, No. 12 overall, but Hooker would also make sense for the Browns, considering their dire need for a safety.



There’s a good chance Hooker won’t be available at No. 12, though. He’s widely projected to become a top-10 pick, but there are always surprises, and no one really knows whether his health could cause him to slide a bit.



Hooker suffered a torn labrum in his left hip and a sports hernia Nov. 26 in a win over Michigan but played through the injury Dec. 31 in a loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal in the Fiesta Bowl. He had surgery Jan. 16 and didn’t work out at the NFL Scouting Combine or Ohio State’s pro day as a result.



Hooker said he resumed running this week and expects to begin cutting in about two weeks.



“I feel like I’ll be ready by June, July, in my opinion,” he said. “Other than that, I feel pretty good. I don’t have no soreness or nothing like that.”



Busy week



On the heels of the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix, the Browns’ top decision makers are back to the grind of the pre-draft process.



The Browns held a private workout Thursday morning with Clemson national championship-winning quarterback Deshaun Watson, a league source confirmed.



North Carolina quarterback and Mentor native Mitchell Trubisky will work out for the Browns on Friday in Berea as part of their local prospects day, another source confirmed.



In addition to Hooker, Ohio State cornerback and Massillon graduate Gareon Conley will make a pre-draft visit to the Browns on Friday, a source said.



Jackson and head of football operations Sashi Brown have skipped the quarterback pro days and instead focused on private workouts with the top prospects. By the end of Friday, they’ll have worked out Watson, Trubisky, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes.



Jackson and Brown also skipped Garrett’s pro day on Thursday, but the Browns were represented by their scouting department and have privately worked him out, too.



After posting an impressive time of 4.64 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, the 6-foot-4˝, 272-pound Garrett ran a 4.62 during his pro day, according to Texas A&M.



Huge investment



At the owners meetings, Jackson explained why the Browns made Kevin Zeitler the highest-paid guard in the NFL by signing the former Cincinnati Bengals standout March 9 to a five-year, $60 million contract, which includes $31.5 million guaranteed.



“He’s tough, strong, great initial quickness, finishes blocks, he knows the system, he knows how to play within the system that I incorporate here,” said Jackson, Zeitler’s offensive coordinator with the Bengals for two seasons. “He’s an unbelievable guy and loves to play. So he fits. I think he’ll hit the ground running just because he’ll understand what we’re trying to do day one more so than somebody else. I think that was a huge piece in getting him to come. But he’ll show his worth very quickly. He’s a really good player.”



Bengals coach Marvin Lewis agreed.



“He’s been a good, hard-nosed physical player for us,” Lewis said at the owners meetings. “He’s a kid who’ll knock down that wall if you ask him to do it. He’s going to do it all day long if that’s what it took.”



The Browns also signed former Green Bay Packers center J.C. Tretter to anchor their line, giving him a three-year, $16.75 million contract, including $10 million guaranteed.



“He’s very athletic. He’s smart. He’s tough,” Jackson said. “He’s coming from a winning organization. But more so than that, I think he knows how to play the game. I think he brings another element of a rough, tough guy who knows how to play and play in the elements, which we play in, the rain, the snow, the cold. He knows how handle it.”



Going separate ways



Jackson handpicked quarterback Robert Griffin III as his starter last year, but Griffin suffered a broken shoulder in the regular-season opener, missed 11 games and finished 1-4. The Browns cut him March 10, one day before they would have owed him a $750,000 roster bonus.



“I hope Robert does have more opportunity because I like Robert Griffin as a person. He works hard. He did everything I asked him to do,” Jackson said. “It’s just unfortunate that it didn’t work out from the playing standpoint. Obviously, getting hurt early didn’t help.



“He came in and played as well as he could the last several weeks, showed that he can play in the National Football League, but I think just where we are and what we’re trying to accomplish, we really want to find a guy that we think can be there for the long haul as we move forward. And that’s just where it is, but I would recommend Robert any place that needed a quarter­back.”



Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.