A facemask penalty is a serious penalty in the NFL because it can result in serious injury to the player being grabbed. There is currently only one type of facemask incident that results in a penalty and this is not it. Grasping the facemask of the ball carrier or quarterback will not result in a penalty. A player must twist the opposing player's head via facemask, or pull them down by their facemask in order to be assessed the major penalty.
This particular action may occur when an opposing player is in the motion of making a tackle or other football move, and accidentally pulls on the facemask of an opposing player and then immediately releases without twisting the head of the opposing player. It is considered an incidental face mask grab, and no penalty is called. A major facemask penalty will be called when a player pulls a player down or twists their heads by grabbing the player's facemask. The NFL did away with a 5-yard incidental face mask penalty after the 2008 season, leaving only the major, intentional penalty.