An illegal use of hands by an offensive or defensive player in which the violating player contacts another player’s face mask with his hands.
The hands to the face rule is a part of the overall rules concerning illegal use of hands and applies strictly to a player impacting another player’s face mask with his hands. Any contact above the frame of another player to the face area incurs a 10-yard penalty against the offense or a 5-yard penalty and automatic first down against the defense (although the emphasis of this rule primarily penalizes offensive players). Prior to the 2014-2015 football season, the illegal hands to the face rule required “prolonged contact” but with greater emphasis on protecting players from head and neck injuries, any forcible, non-incidental contact to a player’s face mask can incur this penalty. Officials are also attempting to eliminate the “popping” of the chin by offensive linemen against defensive rushers after the snap with this rule.