From NBC/NJ's Erin McPike
ST. PETERSBURG, FL -- Sure, there are the meetings behind closed doors for prep on the day of a debate, but Romney also played in a flag football game here with his five sons and a handful of his campaign staffers.
After one play, Romney ran down the field yelling, "This is not tackle, this is not tackle!"
Covered in sweat, he was swarmed by reporters before leaving the game about halfway through. He explained that it "makes all the difference" on the trail if he can have his wife, Ann, or even one of the five sons with him. He's got the whole family in tow for tonight's debate, and they will be seated in the front row-ahead of Giuliani's family. "Ann is really the one who keeps me from going off the edge of the road. She's the guardrail in our family," he said.
When most of the players thought the game was over, it was Romney's oldest son, Tagg, who kept reminding them all that they still had the second half to go. But before the sons re-took the field without their father, they spoke with reporters and talked Iowa. "The five of us will each take turns being there a lot in the next few weeks," Tagg said.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker and several top Romney staffers played in the flag football game, including Carl Forti and Ben Ginsberg. Communications Director Matt Rhoades was told he was kicked off his team to make room for the much taller mayor. Who didn't play in the game? Kevin Madden. He is in town for the debate but was nowhere to be found at the game.