Facemask/Illegal Hands to the Face


New member
This has bothered me for quite some time. When a defensive player is rushing and hits the offensive player in the face mask (accidentally or on purpose) a flag is thrown for illegal hands to the face. Same when an offensive player does that to a defensive player rushing. I have seen it called on corner backs when they go to jam a receiver and the receiver hits their hands and they come up and hit the receiver in the face mask. So what is the rationale for allowing a runner to stiff arm a defender in the face mask? I know the rules allow for it, but why. If it is a safety issue, then shouldn't it be prohibited for runners as well? Here is a picture (hope it works) that illustrates the point:


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New member
Based on the photo, I have seen that one called before on the runner. Normally they will call it if the runner grabs the facemask. It will be interesting to see what the zebras say.


If the runner grabs and twists the facemask that is a foul. "Stiff-arming" does not include grabbing and pulling of the facemask.


New member
JasonTX":3exf4alx said:
If the runner grabs and twists the facemask that is a foul. "Stiff-arming" does not include grabbing and pulling of the facemask.

Thanks Jason.

I know the rule indicates that the runner cannot grab and twist the facemask. So in the picture, should that be a penalty? The runner does look to be grabbing the facemask. Must he also twist the facemask? In the picture you can see that the referee had a great view of the play and did not call a penalty. If the defender on that play grabs the facemask much as the runner is doing, then a penalty would be called, wouldn't it?

More importantly, back to my original question, why is the runner allowed to even put his hands on the defender's facemask? What is the rationale behind allowing that to happen? No other player is allowed to do that. If it is o.k. for the runner to do it, why not everyone else? Other than, "That's the way it's always been," is there a reason for this exception?


New member
I would teach the defensive guy to jerk his head, to capture the attention of the Ref. It appears that the ref doesn't have the view the camara has. A little drama/theater doesn't hurt. Most Ref's go off some type of movement. The game is happening at real speed, plus most Refs are out of shape, so they are focused just on getting down the field...kidding...

Box Dad

New member
I think the stiff arm even the slight grab is "acceptable" from the runner, just one of those things. When the runner has the presence to do this, it says, total dominance. It's a great play if your kids doing it, if it's being done to him, definitely a penalty.


A still photo cannot be used to determine a foul. Simply grasping the facemask is not a foul. It has to be twisted, turned, or pulled. The referee in the photo is behind the runner so he may not be able to see the hand on the facemask. Even if the player jerks his head, we still have to see hand on mask, because a lot of players are taught to jerk their head anytime a hand gets anywhere close to the facemask. I've seen lots of collars get grabbed and the player jerks his head around. Everyone in the stadium thinks it's a facemask, but only I could see it was was a collar grab.

The runner also needs to be careful when he "stiffarms". He can push on the facemask, but he cannot strike it.

As for the question on why a runner can do this but no other player can. That's what the coaches on the rules committee chose to put in the rules. Coaches make the rules, we just enforce them, and sometimes scratch our heads at some of the rules they create.


New member
A stiff arm by the runner is just that: a stiff arm. If they were to wind up and strike a blow to the helmet or face mask of the defender, then you have the option of a personal foul for the blow to the head. I have called that just once in 17 years, but it was so obvious there was no question from the coaching staff. I have flagged around a dozen facemask violations by the runner over the years, those being the grab with a twist or turn.


New member
Nice pic. LOL

No worries...... We got back at Hill Country during the same game.... :)



JasonTX":2mykxdtm said:
A still photo cannot be used to determine a foul.

Earlier this year, a coach from Florida sent me a video of one of their games asking my interpretations on various calls (one of which he pointed out at 0:23 was a facemask, I think).

Yes, it was there, and no it wasn't called.

I pointed out a couple things to my friend.

1. If you're looking to me for rules interpretations, you've come to the wrong place. I'd be just as correct in giving you information on brain surgery or quantum physics.

2. The camera was in the stands, several feet above the ground. If officials bought seats in the stands, perhaps they could call a better game.

3. Again, I saw the violation because I was warned when I'd see it and had the benefit of fore-knowledge and a vantage point to see it. If I was wearing a striped shirt at field level, I could see where you'd miss it.

4. All I know is refs always see our blocks in the back and never see the opponents. I need to do some studying in the rulebook to find that hidden "let's screw the Falcons" provision. I know it's in there somewhere ... probably written in code or invisible ink. Maybe I can blackmail one of my ref friends to give up the secret code or handshake.


Actually, we all get special decoder rings at weekly chapter meetings. The code is scrambled every week to make sure that it isn't intercepted by outside forces.