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