Players are competing on a continual base. Players on the same team compete for bragging rights and even more importantly, the right to be the main leader. Players that play the same position on the team compete against each other for playing time. They compete against other players that are in the rest of the league, for the right to distinguish themselves as the best player at the position they are playing. Jamal Lewis, for instance would understandably compare himself to Eddie George or Corey Dillon, because those are a couple of the best tailbacks in the game.
The aforementioned thought brings me to what will affect all players at some point in their careers. The salary cap situation will be there to affect the future of a player and the team he is currently playing with. The next team that a player who is released might play for will ultimately determine whether that player may be in or out of the league.
Case in point is the situation that we went through as a team last year. Most of the players that we had to release , because we had to get under the cap, ended up on other teams and had the ability to still play and contribute in the NFL. The point here is that some players will be cut from a team, not because they can't play, but due to their cap numbers being too high or the team being in bad shape, based upon the level that the cap is placed under.
Careers are ended early because a team can't fit a particular player under the cap or the determination on how a particular player's cap figure will affect the team's cap picture for the following years. In some cases, players are yo-yoed back and forth, so the cap situation won't be affected. In other words, a player will be released and then re-signed the next day, in order for the team to have that player under the roster for a cheaper price. If you are an aware fan, you can recognize why a player come and go so quickly.
Competition is all around for the players. But the biggest competitor is one that is not considered by most until that number is called. Premature death happens in life all the time. It also happens in a game that we all love to pay. Keep your eyes on the CAP. It's the unseen enemy.