Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco has been around long enough to know a thing or two about succeeding in the NFL. His history tells him that the odds don't favor Raiders rookie receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Ochocinco wasn't asked specifically about Heyward-Bey, but he left little doubt to whom he was referring when he spoke at length about sure hands. Ochocinco intimated the ability to catch is something a receiver is born with and that learning how to catch after reaching the NFL is a recipe for disaster.

"It's natural, man," said Ochocinco, whose Bengals visit the Raiders on Sunday. "You have some people who are just natural pass-catchers and everything is smooth. Then you see some receivers, and they sort of fight with the ball, it's a struggle. Or you have some who always catch with their chest. I'm just natural. I love the ball. If you ever watch me play, I make love to the ball when it comes in."

Heyward-Bey has more notable drops than he does catches this season. He is fresh off a game in which he dropped a 52-yard pass at the Kansas City Chiefs' 5-yard line and bobbled a 17-yard throw that turned into the game-clinching interception at the Chiefs' 9 in the waning moments of a 16-10 loss Sunday. Overall, he has only six receptions for 96 yards and no touchdowns.


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"You can't be in the NFL and try to work on it now because it's too late," Ochocinco said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. "You should be ready to play. You can't come into the NFL and then they have to teach you how to play receiver."

Heyward-Bey isn't letting the criticism affect his outlook or one play define his career.

"Fundamentals went out the window," Heyward-Bey said of his mishandling of a well-thrown pass in the final minute. "That's me being a rookie, getting so excited. Everything I've been working on since Day 1 went out the window. That's something that I know, so that's something that I can improve on. And everything I work on in practice needs to carry over into the games."

  • Defensive end Greg Ellis (knee, shoulder) and special teams player Isaiah Ekejiuba (ankle) are questionable for Sunday's game, Raiders coach Tom Cable said. Even so, Cable said he expects Ellis to start.

    Receivers Javon Walker (hamstring) and Nick Miller (shin) and linebacker Ricky Brown (ankle) missed practice and won't play, Cable said.

  • Bengals starting running back Cedric Benson missed practice for the third straight day and is not expected to play. That means the Raiders likely will face recently signed back Larry Johnson, a player they faced twice a year for several seasons during his tenure with the Chiefs.

  • The Bengals are 4-0 on the road this season. They are 0-9 against the Raiders in games played at the Oakland Coliseum.

  • Twenty-three teams have at least twice as many points as the 88 scored by the Raiders through nine games. The Cleveland Browns (78) are the only team that has scored fewer points.